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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, August 22, 2017

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: The Legal Matters, "Don't Look Back"

This is part of a series of short pieces discussing each of the 29 tracks on our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4The CD can be ordered at Kool Kat Musik.

25. THE LEGAL MATTERS: "Don't Look Back"

There was no freakin' way we were gonna do This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 without Keith Klingensmith.

We've already detailed Keith's involvement in TIRnRR # 4 tracks by The Slapbacks and Popdudes, his curatorship of Futureman Records (the digital home of many fine pop releases, including the three previous TIRnRR compilations), his unassailable status as one of this show's longest-standing friends, and even how he got me a copy of The Spongetones' Where-Ever-Land CD.

My first contact with Keith was in the '90s, via some online pop music connection--probably AOL, I guess. At the time, I was among several pop fans who participated in a weekly Monday night power pop chat group. I don't remember whether or not I specifically met Keith through that chat; I suspect it was more a matter (if not quite a Legal Matter) of Keith noticing a comment I made somewhere, bemoaning the fact that I couldn't find the Spongetones CD mentioned above. Keith to the rescue! Some time later, Keith also provided me with a copy of Here To Observe, the truly hard-to-find debut LP by Springfield, Missouri's phenomenal pop combo Fools Face (Keith wisely kept a copy of the group's incredible third album Public Places for himself), and I'm pretty sure my copy of Artful Dodger's classic debut album came from our Keef.

I, of course, have sent Keith nothing.

Well, maybe not quite nothing, though perhaps close to it. But we did exchange mix cassettes. That's how Keith heard the Gary Frenay song "Make Something Happen," which Keith covers with The Slapbacks on this very TIRnRR compilation. And when the fab Swedish label Sound Asleep Records released Seagirl And 5 Other Dogs, the 1996 debut mini-album from Keith's group The Phenomenal Cats, I gave it the rave review it deserved in the pages of Goldmine.

Through Keith, I also met the other Phenomenal Cat, Chris Richards. There's a wealth of cool music for ya. I mean, The Phenomenal Cats' cover of The Left Banke's "I've Got Something On My Mind" made me appreciate a simply sublime pop song I'd somehow managed to mostly ignore up to that point. The combined and separate threads of Chris 'n' Keith wove through solo tracks by each, plus Hippodrome, The Pantookas, Chris Richards & the Subtractions, Keith Klingensmith & the TM Collective, and The Legal Matters, the latter a trio with Keith, Chris, and Andy Reed. The Legal Matters' eponymous debut was one of 2014's best albums, and their 2016 follow-up Conrad rightly became the toast of the pop world.

We needed Keith Klingensmith on TIRnRR # 4. It bordered on criminal malfeasance that he wasn't on any of our first three compilations but, y'know, time and freakin' tide. And we also specifically wanted The Legal Matters; their participation would immediately enhance the CD's commercial prospects, of course, but we wanted 'em for reasons well beyond the mere pursuit of filthy lucre. If TIRnRR wasn't the first radio show to play The Legal Matters, I betcha we were pretty damned close. This match was preordained.

But we were faced with a familiar predicament: The Legal Matters didn't have an exclusive track available. Keith had some ideas. There's a great track on Conrad, "Short Term Memory," which included a word we can't play on the radio. The lads had given us a radio edit of "Short Term Memory," allowing us to program it to our rampagin' hearts' content. The edit was fine for airplay--the word is blanked out to avoid the wrath of the FCC--but not quite appropriate for use on a compilation CD.  We discussed the prospect of a fresh studio edit, but time was fleeting. We were not giving up on getting The Legal Matters, but the solution wasn't yet clear.

Previous entries in this track-by-track annotation have detailed how, in the midst of all this, Keith and his Slapbacks also came through with that five-star cover of The Flashcubes' "Make Something Happen," as well as Keith's participation in Popdudes' stellar "She Is Funny (In That Way)." Even without The Legal Matters, we had Keith on the set, twice. We're greedy; we still wanted The Legal Matters, too.

Keith had earlier given us the option of selecting a track from The Legal Matters' Trapper Keeper, an all-covers EP that was only available as a digital download. I had backburnered that idea, but soon realized that their heavenly cover of Teenage Fanclub's "Don't Look Back" had thoroughly permeated my consciousness. I initially thought the track was too slow for our needs; the technical term for that line of thinking is "stupid." Like I said in the entry for Irene Peña: switching her track from the uptempo "Not From Around Here" to the luxurious groove of "Must've Been Good" altered the course of this compilation. With that happy change, "Don't Look Back" not only made perfect sense, TIRnRR # 4 wouldn't make sense without it. At long last, we had our Legal Matters track.

Keith Klingensmith is an integral part of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio's story. Our online comradeship predates the show, and has continued unabated throughout the passing pair of decades (and then some). He's been one of our biggest supporters, helping to spread the good word of TIRnRR, sending fans and artists alike our way, contributing to our quixotic cause, and keeping previous TIRnRR compilations available as downloads via  Futureman Records. Keith solicited a spoken track from Dana & Carl for use in The New Sell Out, his multi-artist tribute to The Who Sell Out. He's had our back. Now, finally, we have him on a TIRnRR compilation.

I sent him a copy of the CD, too. I figure it was the least I could do.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio # 886

Stuck in traffic on Sunday night--knew I shoulda just stayed off of 690!--I was late to the party, and Dana hadda start without me. I caught up as of Big Star's rejection of eclipse hoopla, and I tried to keep pace. Quick tribute to the late Jerry Lewis (my first fave comedy star when I was a wee lad), some salutes to The Flashcubes' upcoming 40th Anniversary party at Funk 'n Waffles in Syracuse on September 1st, and a bunch of other fine tunes, including many from our new CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4--suddenly, we had another fine show, my highway travails notwithstanding. This is what rock 'n' roll radio sounded like on a Sunday night in Syracuse this week.

Our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now shipping from Kool Kat Musik. Many TIRnRR fans are already enjoying this CD; why should you be left out? Buy it at http://shop.koolkatmusik.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=KKM&Category_Code=PO

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl streams live on Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, exclusively at www.westcottradio.org

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

TIRnRR # 886: 8/20/17

THE RAMONES: Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio? (Rhino, End Of The Century)
THE KINKS: You Really Got Me (Essential, Kinks)
STEVE WYNN: This Strange Effect (Blue Rose, Sweetness & Light)
THE KINKS: I'm Not Like Everybody Else (Essential, Face To Face)
HIT SQUAD: Best Of Me (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
THE ENGLISH BEAT: Mirror In The Bathroom (IRS, What Is Beat?)
THE MO-DETTES: White Mice (Rhino, VA: DIY: Starry Eyes)
BIG STAR: Turn My Back On The Sun (Rykodisc, In Space)
THE ROMANTICS: What I Like About You (Nemperor, Romantics)
THE SHIRELLES: Will You Love Me Tomorrow (Varese Sarabande, 25 All-Time Greatest Hits)
THE RECORDS: Teenarama (On The Beach, Shades In Bed)
CHRIS VON SNEIDERN: Insomniac Summer (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
THE BEVIS FROND: Hit Squad (Rubric, Hit Squad)
THE OHMS: License To Kill (unreleased)
TELEVISION PERSONALITIES: Part-Time Punks (Soul Jazz, VA: Punk 45 Vol. 2)
CORIN ASHLEY: Little Crumbles (Murray Hill, Broken Biscuits)
WARREN ZEVON: Excitable Boy (Rhino, Genius)
CARL DOUGLAS: Kung Fu Fighting (Castle, VA: Blockbuster!)
THE STRANGLERS: (Get A) Grip (On Yourself) (Rhino, VA: DIY: Anarchy In The UK)
JERRY LEWIS: [untitled rock 'n' roll song] (from the film Rock-A-Bye Baby)
CONNIE DYCUS: Rock-A-Bye Baby Rock (Floating World, VA: Big box Of Rockabilly)
SLY & THE FAMILY STONE: Underdog [single version] (Epic, A Whole New Thing)
PAUL COLLINS' BEAT: She Doesn't Want To Hang Around With You (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
THE 5TH DIMENSION: Go Where You Wanna Go (Arista, The Ultimate 5th Dimension)
THE SMITHEREENS: Got Me A Girl (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
CIRCE LINK & CHRISTIAN NESMITH: I'm On Your Side (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
THE BEAT: Walking Out On Love (Wagon Wheel, The Beat)
THE RULERS: I Want My Ramones Records Back (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
THE RAMONES: I Wanna Be Sedated (Rhino, Road To Ruin)
THE SLAPBACKS: Make Something Happen (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
THE JAGS: Back Of My Hand (I've Got Your Number) (Rhino, VA: DIY: Starry Eyes)
THE FLASHCUBES: Christi Girl (Northside, Bright Lights)
BRAM TCHAIKOVSKY: Girl Of My Dreams (Rhino, VA: DIY: Starry Eyes)
DERRICK ANDERSON: When I Was Your Man (Omnivore, A World Of My Own)
THE RAMONES: The KKK Took My Baby Away (Rhino, Pleasant Dreams)
THE SMITHEREENS: It Don't Come Easy (Capitol, Attack Of The Smithereens)
THE ENGLISH BEAT: Save It For Later (Shout Factory, Special Beat Service)
THE MONKEES: Oh My My (Rhino, 50)
NICK LOWE: Ragin' Eyes (Yep Roc, Quiet Please...)
JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS: Light Of Day (Blackheart, Fit To Be Tied)
MATTHEW SWEET: Sick Of Myself (Sony, Playlist)
IRENE PEÑA: Must've Been Good (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
THE POLICE: Don't Stand So Close To Me (A & M, Greatest Hits)
MAURA & THE BRIGHT LIGHTS: Maybe Someday (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
THE SEARCHERS: Hearts In Her Eyes (Raven, The Sire Sessions 1979-80)
THE LEGAL MATTERS: Don't Look Back (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
THE PENETRATORS: Teenage Lifestyle (Swami, Basement Anthology)
1.4.5.: Your Own World (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
RONNIE DARK: '70s Van (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
STEPFORD KNIVES: Her Reputation (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
THE RUBINOOS: Nowheresville (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
VEGAS WITH RANDOLPH FEATURING LANNIE FLOWERS: The Weekend's Coming (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
THE GRIP WEEDS: Strange Bird (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
SLY & THE FAMILY STONE: You Better Help Yourself (Epic, A Whole New Thing)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: The Rulers, "I Want My Ramones Records Back"

This is part of a series of short pieces discussing each of the 29 tracks on our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4The CD can be ordered at Kool Kat Musik.

24. THE RULERS: "I Want My Ramones Records Back"

Heh. With a title like that, "I Want My Ramones Records Back" simply had to be on a This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilation. It just took us a while to work things out.

Long before The Rulers recorded this track, the song was a phantom, an elusive Carbona-huffin' will o' the wisp. It's one of the best tributes to the magic of The Ramones I've ever heard--rivaling Motorhead's "Ramones" and Amy Rigby's "Dancing With Joey Ramone"--but I barely heard it originally. It was a hint, a rumor, and little more than that. Stealth might not be the first word that comes to mind when thinking of Ramones novelty records, but it applies in this case.

I first heard of the song from its author, Noah DeRule. Noah was in a Phoenix band called The Orphans, and The Orphans recorded the original version of "I Want My Ramones Records Back." I can't even remember when that was. But Noah contacted me to make me aware of the track, possibly to consider for airplay on TIRnRR. Maybe. I don't remember. All I remember for sure is that I could listen to the song via the great 'n' powerful internet, but I didn't know of any way to save a copy of it. Eventually, the link to the song faded to gray, and "I Want My Ramones Records Back" was relegated to the dustbin of my memory.

Fortunately, I have a very good memory. Um...sometimes.

The song haunted me for years. I didn't make any permanent note of the group's name, nor that of its writer, but the song itself was seared into my brain. I tried to track down more info. Google. Chat groups. Direct inquiries to pop music peers. I was a rock 'n' roll Mr. Keen, tracer of lost pop tunes. The trail led to Singapore--no, I'm not kidding--and went cold. Man, this never happens to Mr. Keen!

Never quite gave up the search, though. And eventually, a combination of YouTube, Reverbnation, and Facebook led me back to Noah DeRule.

When The Orphans broke up, Noah switched coasts and joined The Rulers in Richmond, Virginia. I'm not sure of the precise timeline, but Noah's travels also took him much, much farther East, including residence in Vietnam. I think he's back in Arizona now. Or, y'know, Metropolis maybe, or Stars Hollow. Boy gets around.

Somewhere in there, The Rulers recorded a new version of "I Want My Ramones Records Back," its title now truncated to "Ramones." Noah sent me a copy, and I was in Cretin Hop Heaven. Except for the addition of one FCC-unfriendly word, The Rulers' "Ramones" perfectly matched my memory of The Orphans' "I Want My Ramones Records Back."

In assembling TIRnRR # 4, we definitely wanted some version of this song represented. The Orphans' original version was a no-go--Noah said even he didn't have a copy of that anymore--but The Rulers' version was A-OK by us, as long as we could get a radio edit, and as long as we could restore the original expanded title. Noah drafted a pal to carry out the edit, and granted our plea to exhume the more descriptive "I Want My Ramones Records Back" as its title. Mission accomplished, easy as 1-2-3-4!

The presumed (and desired) immediacy of TIRnRR does not in any way dilute our commitment to a bigger picture, a longer view of who we are, where we're going, and how we got this far. We forget stuff, sure, but we remember a lot. Really, a lot. We remember songs, and parts of songs, and performers, and listeners, and circumstances, and comments, and impressions, and the sensation of sheer, exuberant connection. And if we love something, we hold tight to its memory, and we retain its spark forever. The spark of "I Want My Ramones Records Back" has never been far from our consciousness, even over that span of years when we couldn't hear it. We remembered. Unlike that song says, though, you can't keep the Blondie and The Knack, nor The Sex Pistols and The Clash, and we do give a damn about The Rolling Stones. We want 'em all. But we'd be dying without our Ramones.

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I think I know what Kinks song will start the show. I think I know what Sly and the Family Stone song will play us out. I figure, like, 9:05 tonight sounds like a good time to start sorting out the rest. These contents are not under pressure, but may combust anyway. Sunday night, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org

Saturday, August 19, 2017

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: The Hit Squad, "Best Of Me"

This is part of a series of short pieces discussing each of the 29 tracks on our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4The CD can be ordered at Kool Kat Musik.

23. THE HIT SQUAD: "Best Of Me"

"Best Of Me" by The Hit Squad has been on my all-time Hot Tracks list for years, but I bet most of you have never even heard of it. The track was recorded in 1980, and it makes its first-ever public appearance on This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4. I want to tell you a little bit of the back story. As with many of my favorite little pop music stories, this one intersects with the sprawling history of my favorite power pop group, The Flashcubes.

The roots of The Hit Squad go back to Watertown, NY in the late '70s. Contemporary to the vibrant Syracuse punk/new wave/power pop scene spearheaded by The Flashcubes, a Watertown combo called The Upbeats was plying its own skinny-tie trade in the North Country. I think The Upbeats were mostly (if not entirely) a cover band, but a cover band with a left-of-the-dial focus. My grasp of the nuances and subtleties of The Upbeats' story is...well, non-existent. I never heard them, and I never saw them play. I almost saw them precisely once: on July 1st, 1979, at Dave Glavin's graduation party in his garage in Pulaski. It was the night following the morning I discovered that one of my best friends had chosen to end his life with a bullet. That story is told elsewhere on this blog (in posts about KISS, The Ramones, and The Flashcubes). I arrived at Dave's garage too late to witness The Upbeats, but in time to revel in an incendiary performance by The Flashcubes (a performance ended abruptly by local law enforcement).

One of The Flashcubes' biggest boosters at the time was Dian Zain, the diminutive girlfriend of 'Cubes guitarist Paul Armstrong. Dian was a polarizing figure in the Syracuse scene, but honestly, she was always nice to me, and we got along fine. Dian wanted to be a pop star herself, so she recorded a single, "Take A Chance"/"Do The Jumping Jack" (the latter tune an early Flashcubes number) for release on the 'Cubes' own little Northside Records label. On those tracks, Dian was backed by Paul and (I think) members of The Ohms, another all-time great Syracuse group. But, before the 45 was released, musical differences within The Flashcubes resulted in Paul no longer being a 'Cube. Dian had already formed a group of her own, with the intent of playing some live shows and pursuing rock 'n' roll glory. Paul joined that group immediately. The rest of this new band? Guitarist Derek Knott, drummer Judd Williams, and bassist Tommy O'Riley, all formerly of The Upbeats. With Dian and Paul, this new group was The Most.

"Take A Chance" was finally issued, with a new picture sleeve proclaiming it as a single by The Most (although the 45's label still credited it as a Dian Zain record). The Most debuted as a live act in August of '79, opening for The Records at Stage East in East Syracuse. I loved this band. And one of my bestest Fave Raves in their live set was a Tommy O'Riley tune called "Best Of Me." To me, this song sounded like Debbie Harry fronting The Heartbreakers, girl-pop vocals over Johnny Thunders-style guitar. Heaven!

The local press reported that "Best Of Me" would be The Most's second single, but it was not to be. If The Most ever got around to recording "Best Of Me"--and I would swear that they did--no one has been able to find that recording. The Most's original line-up split instead, as the erstwhile Upbeats sought their fortune elsewhere. Paul and Dian enlisted The Ohms as a temporary backing band for live shows, and eventually settled on bassist Dave Anderson and drummer Dick Hummer as The Most's new rhythm section. Ohms drummer Ducky Carlisle returned when Dick Hummer went off to pursue his solo goals as Machine + Hummer. The Most ended in August of 1980--roughly a year after their origin--when Paul, Dave, and Duck became 1.4.5., and Dian went on to front Zane Grey.

Quite a tangled web, eh?

Meanwhile, Tommy O'Riley and Derek Knott had joined a group called The Hit Squad, with drummer Tim Carr and singer Nancy O (Tommy's sister). The Hit Squad recorded "Best Of Me" in 1980, but it remained unreleased. The Hit Squad became The 4, with Upbeats/Most drummer Judd Williams replacing Carr. "Best Of Me" was a part of The 4's live repertoire, and an in-concert recording of that exists. Many years later, Tommy (now recording under the name Tommy Gunn) included a new rendition of the song on his 2001 release Endangered Species, finally giving "Best Of Me" its first official release in any version.

Somewhere along the way, a Syracuse Community Radio DJ--and I'm kicking myself for my inability to remember his name--gave me a CD-R of Derek Knott recordings, and that disc included "Best Of Me" by The Hit Squad. Man, to hear that song again, in an unfamiliar version that duplicated the arrangement of my still-vivid, cherished memory of The Most's version...! I was 19 again, my fist raised, my adrenaline pumping, cheap beer fueling my enthusiasm and my devotion to the rock 'n' roll experience. Time can stand still, and even reverse its crushing advance for a little while, when you listen to pop music.

The original line-up of The Most got back together for a live set at our first BRIGHT LIGHTS! Syracuse New Wave Rock 'n' Roll Reunion in 2014. I told Tommy how much I've always adored "Best Of Me," and he dedicated its live performance that night to me. And this year, he offered it to us for This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4. We ruled out live takes from The Most and The 4, and also Tommy's solo version (because my memory demanded the song have female lead vocals). But The Hit Squad's version? That was perfect for us.

Now, at long last, you get to hear it, too. Imagine you're 19. You've just lost one of your best friends. Your future lays out before you, with all of its promise and all of its doubt. The band plays a sad song of regret, both casual and devastating, and the sound just makes you feel alive. The rush of feeling buoys you, keeps you moving, prods you to go on. I love you still/It doesn't matter/You're just another step/Up my ladder. It's not cynicism. It's optimism, tempered by the knowledge of all that can and may go wrong. It's hope. It's ambition. It's life itself.

It's the best of you. And it always will be.

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: Paul Collins' Beat, "She Doesn't Want To Hang Around With You"

This is part of a series of short pieces discussing each of the 29 tracks on our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4The CD can be ordered at Kool Kat Musik.

22. PAUL COLLINS' BEAT: "She Doesn't Want To Hang Around With You"

In the late '70s, I hooked my best friend Jay Hammond on the music of Blondie. I betcha Jay had a crush on lead singer Debbie Harry--I know I certainly did!--and he became a big, big fan of the group. In late 1978, Jay picked up Blondie's Parallel Lines album well before I got around to it. Among the Parallel Lines tracks Jay raved about was its lead-off cut, "Hanging On The Telephone." It took me a minute to place its familiar pop sound, but then I realized and declared: Oh yeah! That's the song by The Nerves!

I first read about The Nerves--Jack Lee, Peter Case, and Paul Collins--in the pages of Bomp! magazine in '78. I picked up their EP The Nerves at Record Theater up on Marshall Street near Syracuse University, and played it a lot throughout that summer of '78. Two of the songs, "Hanging On The Telephone" and "Give Me Some Time," were written by Lee, and I liked 'em just fine. But I liked the other two tracks even more: "When You Find Out" by Peter Case, and "Working Too Hard" by Paul Collins.

The Nerves broke up. Jack Lee went off to brood and, I dunno, cash his checks from Blondie royalties. Peter Case formed The Plimsouls. And Paul Collins formed The Beat.

Even before The Beat, a simply soarin' power pop tune called "Walking Out On Love" appeared on a Bomp! Records compilation, Waves, Vol. 1 (which also included "Christi Girl" by The Flashcubes). Though credited as a Paul Collins solo track, "Walking Out On Love" was recorded by The Breakaways, a short-lived group Collins and Case formed after The Nerves' dissolution. Case split, and The Breakaways became The Beat.

I fumbled across The Beat's eponymous debut album at Main Street Records in Brockport; this was late '79. right as the LP was released. I hadn't heard anything about The Beat before that, but I recognized "Working Too Hard" and "Walking Out On Love" in the track listing, and knew I had to own it. I wasn't disappointed. The Beat is widely acknowledged as a power pop classic, one of the all-time essential power pop albums. "Rock And Roll Girl," "Don't Wait Up For Me," "You Won't Be Happy," "I Don't Fit In," "Let Me Into Your Life"--for pop fans like us, these songs have become a part of our being, our DNA, our way of life.

A U.K. band (and, granted, a great U.K. band) also laid claim to the Beat nom du bop, so the American group would henceforth be known as Paul Collins' Beat or some variation thereof, while the Brits were known here as The English Beat. Ultimately, Paul Collins' Beat never achieved its just commercial due, and the group sorta faded as the '80s droned on.

Collins continued to perform and record, as Paul Collins' Beat, as a solo artist, and as The Paul Collins Band. Expatriate Central New Yorker Chris von Sneidern played a bit with Collins before relocating to California, and the early '90s edition of The Paul Collins Band included Flashcubes guitarist Arty Lenin. Syracuse strong!

When we first began doing This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilations circa 2004, Paul Collins was very high up on our wish list of artists to beg and cajole. Although Paul and I had corresponded very briefly in the '90s, when I was freelancing for Goldmine, he didn't really know who we were, and declined the invitation to appear on a TIRnRR CD. But in 2009, when Paul was doing a living room and small venue tour as an acoustic duo with John Wicks of The Records, our mutual acquaintance Rich Rossi arranged for Paul and John to visit TIRnRR.

Whatta blast! It was a Thursday night, June 11th, the night before the pair was scheduled to perform a show in nearby Cortland, NY. We commandeered a common area in the Westcott Community Center (outside the little closet we laughingly call a studio), invited a few friends to sit on folding chairs as a de facto live audience, and live streamed about an hour of music and conversation, chatting with the lads, listening to them tell stories, and lettin' 'em play. It was a magic moment in TIRnRR history. I wasn't able to attend the Cortland show the next night (due to a previous commitment and a quick trip to Urgent Care), but Dana was there. And he said that when Paul recognized Dana, he grabbed him in a bear hug, and declared that the TIRnRR mini-gig "was so much fuckin' fun!" We've all been pals ever since.

For This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4, Paul Collins granted us our choice of anything from his catalog. That gave us a lot of outstanding stuff to consider, but we zeroed in on the 2008 Paul Collins' Beat album Ribbon Of Gold. Even that didn't really narrow things down all that much--Ribbon Of Gold is a terrific album!--and we vacillated between four tracks. "Hey DJ" seemed too obvious a choice. "Big Pop Song" was just as obvious, I guess, but we had it penciled in, until we replaced it with--ta da!--"Falling In Love With Her." Which, of course, we replaced late in the game with "She Doesn't Want To Hang Around With You." Any one of these would have been the right choice. But "She Doesn't Want To Hang Around With You" was the rightest choice, channeling 1970s punk-pop energy into what could almost be seen as a flip of "Walking Out On Love": she's walking out because she's tired of you!

I was a teenager when I first heard the music of Paul Collins.The Nerves. The Breakaways. The Beat. Collins has been a consistent part of my life's soundtrack since that time, nearly forty years later. I may still have the tiniest remnant of a crush on Debbie Harry, but I still prefer The Nerves' version of "Hanging On The Telephone" to Blondie's. And I do dig The Beat, man. I do dig The Beat.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: The Smithereens, "Got Me A Girl"

This is part of a series of short pieces discussing each of the 29 tracks on our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4The CD can be ordered at Kool Kat Musik.

21. THE SMITHEREENS: "Got Me A Girl"

We've been trying to land this one for years.

This fourth volume of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilations finally allows Dana and me to cross off three of the four biggest prizes on our ongoing wish list for these things. We've been trying to get Paul Collins' Beat since we started work on Volume 2 over a decade ago, we pursued The Rubinoos for Volume 3 in 2013, and we're pleased and proud that both of those acts are now represented on Volume 4.  The rest of our short top-of-the-pop wish list was two specific songs, both of which we've been tryin' to get forever. One was Michael Nesmith's "Rising In Love"--Michael! Call us!--and the other was "Got Me A Girl," a terrific forgotten track from the out-of-print 1980 EP Girls About Town. That EP was the debut release from a little band called The Smithereens.

You all know The Smithereens; I doubt there's anything I can tell you about them that you don't already know. Hell, I won't even try. They're great, you know they're great, so you understand implicitly why we've ached to have The Smithereens on a TIRnRR disc awready. We've been corresponding with the group's guitarist Jim Babjak for quite some time; Jim was on the second TIRnRR comp as a member of The B.A.R., which was Jim Babjak, Danny Adlerman, and The Grip Weeds' Kurt Reil. I'm pretty sure we came into contact with Jim through our friends and listeners Rich and Kathy Firestone--man, those Firestones sure do come up a lot in these chronicles, don't they?

Anyway, Jim's been a friendly and supportive guy. He was okay with the idea of us using a Smithereens track from the get-go, but we could never quite close the deal. Complicating matters a bit was the fact that anything new by The Smithereens was contractually tied to their record label. But we were fine with an older track; among the many shiny gems in The Smithereens' catalog o' glory, "Got Me A Girl" was always, always the one we wanted most.

I have never owned a copy of the Girls About Town EP. I don't think I'd even heard of The Smithereens in 1980, and I didn't really hear them until their classic "Behind The Wall Of Sleep" lit up the airwaves in 1986. I became a fan pretty damned quick at that point. I bought Especially For You, the album that included "Behind The Wall Of Sleep," and subsequently reached back for the Beauty And Sadness EP, and then the subsequent Green Thoughts LP, and Smithereens 11, and...you get the idea. "Sorry," the irresistible single from the group's amazing Smithereens 2011 album, tied with Mad Monster Party's "Can't Stop Loving You" as our # 1 most-played track in 2011. I saw The Smithereens live at Syracuse's Lost Horizon in the '90s, and I almost met drummer Dennis Diken in New York in 2001, when Dana and I attended a release party for Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, a book to which I'd contributed; alas, I was too shy to introduce myself.

Still, I don't think I've ever seen a copy of Girls About Town. The only reason I've even heard it is because that Rich Firestone boy included it on a cassette he sent to me years ago (a cassette which also included the only known surviving copy of Blotto's "We Wanna See The Monkees," which we exhumed for This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 3). Of the EP's four tracks--"Girls About Town," "Got Me A Girl," "Girls Are Like That," and a cover of The Beach Boys' "Girl Don't Tell Me"--only the title track has ever been reissued, on the rarities set Attack Of The Smithereens (which also includes a live version of "Girl Don't Tell Me"). The other three? Gone. Not lost exactly, but not readily available for you to have and cherish forever, like the special someone who thrills your lovelorn heart the most.

We had to fix that, at least in part. Years ago, I proposed including "Girl Don't Tell Me" on New Wave Summer, a never-released compilation for the Music Club label. That project crashed. I love "Girls Are Like That," but I love "Got Me A Girl" even more. We have been aggressively pursuing that track for a long, long time.

And now, we've got it! I'm so happy 'cause now we got "Got Me A Girl!" I hope this serves as some inspiration for The Smithereens to reissue Girls About Town in its entirety--my cassette's gettin' a little worn--but in the mean time, TIRnRR is proud to perform this public service for rockin' pop fans everywhere. Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time since 1980, here are The Smithereens and "Got Me A Girl." Patience. Perseverance. Pop music! You got it.

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