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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.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

VIDEO SHILLS FOR RADIO STARS: Favorite Songs video companion # 1


Well!  My recent post on My All-Time Top 300 Songs has already become one of this blog's all-time most-viewed pages, and I'm eager to pander.  So, here are some YouTube videos for just a few of my many Fave Raves.
The Cowsills' album Global is the greatest '90s album that no one actually heard in the '90s.  Hell, there are days I think it's just the best album of the '90s, period.  The Cowsills allowed Dana and I to use this track on the second This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilation CD, and we remain eternally grateful.  Are you a pop fan?  You need a copy of Global by The Cowsills.

I like XTC, but I've never been as big a fan as many of my peers seem to be.  I remember hearing them described as "pop," but the first XTC song I heard ("Making Plans For Nigel") didn't strike me as particularly pop, at least not pop like The Raspberries, The Ramones, or The Bay City Rollers.  If I'd heard this track as my first XTC track, things mighta been different! (And the video is an example of my favorite style of pop music video, with the band lip-syncing while romping through a frothy set-up, complete with pretty girls.  Good enough for The Monkees!  And good enough for me and my XTC.)

I'm not sure which version of this song I heard first--this original version by The Dave Rave Conspiracy, or a cover by Shane Faubert.  But a terrific song either way.  Look for my pal (and occasional co-writer) Gary Pig Gold playing guitar here.


This remains one of my all-time favorite breakup songs (or post-breakup songs, really).  A few years ago on This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, I did a whole show as a three-hour song thread detailing the story of a girl and a boy--how they meet, fall in love, blow up, break up, and ultimately reunite.  I may share the text of that in a near-future blog post.  But this Hoodoo Gurus classic was represented, and that's for damned sure.


I had the great good fortune to see The Searchers live in...1982?  Sounds about right.  It was shortly before Mike Pinder left the group acrimoniously, and therefore one of the last chances to see The Searchers the way one oughtta see The Searchers.  It was a magnificent show at The Tralfamadore Cafe in Buffalo, and the group mixed their '60s classics with lots of material from their two then-recent albums for Sire Records.  This song was a highlight in an evening filled with highlights.
This song was written by Bernie Kugel of The Mystic Eyes.  I knew Bernie casually when I worked at a record store in downtown Buffalo in the mid-'80s, and we were mutual friends with Buffalo's legendary Mad Louie (aka Louie the Mad Vinyl Junkie).  I recall seeing this video on MTV and delighting in Bernie's accomplishment.
I wrote the liner notes to Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, a Rhino Records compilation CD.  I first heard this song as part of that project; it was on the list of tracks the good folks at Rhino were considering for the CD, but it was (I think) unavailable, though it may have just been cut in favor of something else.  No--it must have been unavailable, because how could anyone even consider cutting this out?  The song remains a perennial favorite on This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio.
Material from my interview with Archies lead singer Ron Dante should appear on the blog later this week, once I get around to transcribing that section of my history of bubblegum music.  "Sugar Sugar" was The Archies big hit, sure--but this was The Archies' magic moment.
I've often written (and will continue to write) about the importance of AM pop radio in my life, especially as a kid in the early '70s.  I had a lot of AM favorites that remain favorites to this day--my Hot 300 is peppered liberally with 'em--and this was and will always be one of them.  Probably my all-time favorite Motown track (though The Four Tops are still my fave Motown act).
The studio version of this song is just irresistible, and it saddens me that it's not better known.  This live version's pretty ace, too!
 To Linda McLaren, wherever she is.  Not that I'm implying any sleeping love here--we were pals, and that was enough--but Linda was the one that hooked me on this song in high school, circa 1977, when she brought in a trio of Monkees LPs I'd neither seen nor heard before.  I was a Monkees fan already, but it was a tough time to be a Monkees fan.  The Monkees weren't cool (and--then, as now--I didn't give a damn about that), and all of their albums were out of print.  I owned four Monkees albums, and then Linda showed me The Monkees Present (which left me indifferent at the time), the soundtrack to The Monkees' movie Head (which floored me), and, best of all, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd., which has been one of my top albums ever since.  Thanks,Linda!
I was not at all familiar with Anny Celsi when my co-host Dana brought in her debut album, Little Black Dress & Other Stories, and then played "Empty Hangers" on This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio.  Hello!  I love it when a song just grabs me completely and immediately, and my obsession with this song remains undiminished.  Anny allowed us to use it on our third TIRnRR compilation CD, and this live version further rules with Nelson Bragg's kickass drumming.  (Nelson spends a lot of his time nowadays playing with Brian Wilson, and Nelson's own sublime song "Forever Days" narrowly missed a berth on my Hot 300.)
What a great, great track.  Written by Little Steven hisself, and later covered by the fictional Twylight Zones in the film Not Fade Away, this definitive version by Norway's Phenomenal Pop Combo Cocktail Slippers is a shiny and lethal burning ember, glowing with equal parts girl-group heartbreak, femme fatale bravado, earnest yearning, and grim willingness to fight before flight.  Cocktail Slippers have recorded so many absolutely killer tracks; and I always get stuck on just playing this one, over and over and over.

One of my two favorite tracks by The Catholic Girls (along with "Someone New"), this song first appeared on the group's 2006 album Meet The Catholic Girls, and was also included on This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 3 in 2013.
It's an ongoing joke on our show that The Kinks are This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio's House Band, because it's very, very rare for us to do one of our weekly shows without playing The Kinks at least once.  Why?  Because they're The Kinks.  And God Save The Kinks.  Don't even try to argue with a Shindig! Pick Hit.
   After I graduated from the State University College at Brockport, NY in 1980, I decided to stay in that little college town while my girlfriend completed her studies.  We got an apartment together, and tried to figure out this whole growin' up adulting thing.  I did not seem to have any immediate natural aptitude for it, but we got by somehow.  Mostly with beer.  And my main place to buy beer was a little grocery store called Muesey's, just across the canal from our apartment; chatting regularly with the guy workin' the counter at Muesey's while we satisfied our jones for Goebel Beer, he spoke about his love of contemporary ska music, and that led me to get hooked on the music of The Selecter.  This song goes great with beer! 
The first song I ever heard by The Jam was incongruously atypical:  listening to the college radio station one afternoon in the fall of 1977, I heard The Jam's version of "The Batman Theme."  It was a productive afternoon of radio listening, actually:  it was also the first time I heard The Flamin' Groovies (their cover of The Beatles' "Misery"), and the first time I made conscious note of a couple of oldies, "Five O'Clock World" by The Vogues and "Lies" by The Knickerbockers.  The Jam would soon become one of my favorite acts; I bought import singles, I bought the LPs, and by the early '80s The Jam were basically tied with The Ramones for the coveted title of Carl's Fave Group.  The Jam's debut single, a punk-spawned power pop explosion called "In The City," will never leave my Hot 100.

"Johnny B. Goode" got a lot of AM radio airplay in Syracuse in the early '70s; I don't if I realized it was an oldie from the '50s, or if I thought it was a contemporary hit, but I do know that I didn't care one way or another--it rocked, and that was all I needed!  My Chuck Berry interest increased in the early '80s, with the purchase of a Chuck Berry best-of LP and a fresh obsession with "Sweet Little Sixteen."  But, decades later, "Promised Land" has become my go-to Chuck Berry track.  
I have this vague memory of seeing The Isley Brothers perform their transcendent cover of "Summer Breeze" on one of the late-night rock 'n' roll TV shows in the mid-'70s.  I liked it, but didn't really become a fan until Dana started playing it on This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio.  I have since made up for lost time.
 With many of these songs, I can't remember or explain where and when my obsession began.  I have no idea how I got hooked on Phil Ochs' "I Ain't Marching Anymore," but the obsession has been prevailing and pervasive for a good long time now.  (I do still intend to find a way to use my Phil Ochs joke someday:  that this song was originally written as a first-person tribute to actor Orson Welles' efforts to move on with his career after the War Of The Worlds debacle, and was to be called "I Ain't Martian Anymore."  Context.  The joke just needs better context.)
Silly, silly fun!  Pop music with no greater purpose than to make me wanna break stuff with manic glee.  A noble purpose, indeed!
You have no idea how goddamned galling it is for me, as a Mary Lou Lord fan, to say anything positive about Courtney Love.  This is certainly a forbidden love for me, but I can't help it--Hole's Celebrity Skin album is a magnificent pop record, and I'll never grow weary of listening to this magic, magic track (which I first heard in the Drew Barrymore film Never Been Kissed).
Another This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio favorite that captured my attention.  I've been known to put this on repeat-play for an entire twenty-minute commute.
I bought the 45 of "Do Anything You Wanna Do" by Eddie and the Hot Rods during my freshman year in college, Spring '78.  But I'd first heard the song as covered in live sets by Syracuse's own power pop powerhouse, The Flashcubes.  I often proclaimed that Hot Rods single as The Greatest Record Ever Made--because, as we know, an infinite number of records can be THE Greatest Record Ever Made, as long as they take turns--but it was permanently knocked down by The Flashcubes' own eventual studio cover, which appeared on the 'Cubes' 2003 album BrilliantCan an absolute be qualified?  Can the best-ever become...um, bestest?  Guess so.  At one of The Flashcubes' appearances at International Pop Overthrow, the group closed their incendiary live set with a roof-killing rendition of "Do Anything You Wanna Do."  Audience thus slayed, IPO maestro David Bash bounded to the mic and uttered a phrase rarely heard at IPO:  "Wanna here them do one more song?"  And one guy in the audience immediately answered, "I want to hear them do that song again!"  And I think I'd like to play it again.  Care to join me?