- 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.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
My GOLDMINE Audition: THE CHESTERFIELD KINGS and THE BANGLES
As I may have mentioned with numbing frequency already, I was a freelance writer for Goldmine magazine for nearly 20 years. My first published work for Goldmine was a pair of reviews (of Laughing At The Pieces by Doctor and the Medics, and a garage compilation called Beasts From The East) that appeared in October of 1986.
But before I got the assignment to review those two LPs, I had previously sent Goldmine's then-editor Jeff Tamarkin an unsolicited piece, a two-in-one review of then-current albums by The Chesterfield Kings and The Bangles. Goldmine's publisher Krause Publications also published a number of other magazines geared to specific collectors' markets, and I was already freelancing for Krause's Comics Collector (and possibly for Comics Buyer's Guide); reaching out to Krause's record-collecting magazine seemed like a good opportunity for me to expand into writing about music.
I mailed the review to Jeff on January 29, 1986, and he rejected them pretty quickly, as I recall. But it was an encouraging rejection; he couldn't use the review because both albums had already been assigned to other writers. Jeff said he disliked my use of the first-person POV in my review, but liked the style otherwise, and invited me to try again. We agreed on assignments, and my career with Goldmine was on its way.
Looking through my files for something entirely unrelated to this, I just discovered that original, rejected manuscript. This was my Goldmine audition from 1986, and this is its first appearance anywhere.
THE CHESTERFIELD KINGS
Stop! (Mirror 10)
Different Light (Columbia 40039)
The calendar may say 1986, but 1966 is still an important reference point for many bands. The reasons why are many and varied--if you're reading Goldmine, you're already familiar with the mother lode of rock 'n' soul nuggets from the '60s--but Big Chill nostalgia is for the young urban you-know-whats. The sounds of twenty years ago continue today, not as a misty-eyed remembrance, but as a recognition of their enduring vitality in banal times. As a snot-nosed upstart born in 1960, I know whereof I mumble.
The triumph of a lasting appeal over mere nostalgia is particularly accurate in regard to the current garage and neo-psychedelic movements, which deal largely in revivals of regional stars and one-hit wonders like The Lollipop Shoppe, Chocolate Watchband, and 13th Floor Elevators. The unchallenged leader of this pack are The Chesterfield Kings, who've just released their second album. To The Chesterfield Kings, the events of the past two decades--Watergate, synthesizers, extended dance mixes--never happened; all that nonsense may have occurred on Earth-Two or some other alternate dimension, but not in The Chesterfield Kings' world. Consequently, the group's records come straight out of 1966, while still sounding contemporary and more fully-realized than some of the obscure artists they emulate.
That said, Stop! is an immediate improvement over Here Are The Chesterfield Kings,the band's first LP. The production is cleaner, without giving up an ounce of authenticity. More importantly, the record is two-thirds original material, as the band moves away from their dependence upon Moving Sidewalks and Chocolate Watchband songs. The Watchband remains a predominant influence on the new songs (including the Kings' single, "She Told Me Lies," re-cut for the LP), though there are also echoes of The 13th Floor Elevators, Palace Guard, and just about every other group to combine electric guitars with electric sugar cubes. The four covers are suitably manic and obscure, though the new version of "Bad Woman" can't touch The Fallen Angels' unsurpassable original. Altogether, Stop! is groovy, great, and an absolutely essential addition to your garage rock collection.
The Bangles aren't really a garage band, per se, but their roots can certainly be traced to Love, The Standells, and others. As an all-female outfit, they've suffered (unwarranted) comparisons to The Go-Go's, and the powerpop explosion of their first album led some overzealous critics to dub them the new Beatles.
Comparisons aside, however, The Bangles are a capable and committed band with real Top 40 potential. The first single off Different Light is "Manic Monday," a new song by Prince that crosses "1999" with the ersatz Summer of Love sound of "Raspberry Beret." This pleasant-enough gift from His Royal Ubiquitousness can't hurt The Bangles' hit-making prospects, and the rest of the album reveals a wealth of radio-ready tunes, particularly "Walking Down Your Street," "Angels Don't Fall In Love," "Different Light," a lovely version of Big Star's "September Gurls"--just about every track would sound good on hit radio, played over and over again.
Different Light may be The Bangles' big bid for mass popularity, but they've sacrificed nary a bit of the sensibility that made their last LP a critics' fave. Their vision is decidedly '60s: on record and on stage, they've covered the likes of The Yardbirds, Seeds, Merry-Go-Round, Love, et al. But The Bangles are unmistakably an '80 band, a band who could conceivably connect with the same young fans who dig Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. Whether or not they succeed on that level remains to be seen, but The Bangles' eventual stardom seem assured. At the very least, they may cause me to look at the Top 40 in a different light. Hey, how is the air up there, anyway?