- 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, May 18, 2016
The Mixtapes Of October
I get the sense that there may be some folks who think mixtapes are a lost art. Much of that notion, one presumes, is built upon nostalgia, a cherished, cherry-visioned recollection of taking favorite LPs and 45s from their perch, painstakingly selecting just the right tracks, in just the right sequence, carefully checking the audio levels, and working diligently to complete the custom cassette that will surely dazzle friends, fellow fans, new acquaintances, and complete strangers, and will--most importantly--be deemed swoon-worthy by the delectable li'l number whose heart, mind, and hot physical presence you seek to steal with your impeccable pop taste. Y'know, I think I may have just convinced myself that mixtapes were humanity's creative zenith.
Well, except for the fact that cassette tapes sucked.
That said, I do understand and share a fond memory of mixtapes. I don't miss them; the sheer convenience of CD-Rs and digital playlists completely tops the sentimental affection of song-stuffed SA-90s. But even today, when listening to the radio or my iPod, whenever a certain Fave Rave tune comes on, I fully expect it to be followed by whatever Fave Rave tune was next in line on some mixtape whose specific song sequence I still remember with clarity and joy.
Most of the mixtapes I assembled were for my own enjoyment, especially once I got a car with a cassette deck and didn't have to put up with awful radio stations anymore. But I also made mixtapes for others, and participated in some larger-group tape tree exchanges in the '90s. Rummaging through the ol' archives, I found the annotated notes for three of my tape tree contributions. I don't pretend that they're particularly insightful or revelatory, but they are for damn sure enthusiastic. And I never apologize for being enthusiastic about pop music.
We begin with what was apparently the third in a series called Hands Across The Internet; I probably still have the first two volumes here somewhere, but no annotation. So let's join our story, already in progress....
HANDS ACROSS THE INTERNET: Pop # 3
A couple of you already have the first two volumes, plus my Flashcubes anthology tape, so I've generally avoided duplication here. "No Promise" and "Wouldn't You Like It" should be the only overlapping tracks. If anyone else wants a copy of volumes one or two (featuring Candy, The Barracudas, Chopper, The Dangtrippers, Chris Wilson and the Sneetches, Dirty Looks, Great Buildings, The Laughing Dogs, The Scruffs, rare Romantics, and more), or the Flashcubes tape, please send blank tapes and appropriate postage. [2016 reminder: this offer is no longer valid!]
THE FLASHCUBES: "No Promise" My heroes! Dynamic late '70s power pop group from Syracuse, shoulda been stars, etc., etc., etc. I wrote the liner notes for their proposed CD anthology, which should actually be released someday. This is one of my all-time favorite power pop tracks.
SCREEN TEST: "Sound Of The Radio" When The Flashcubes imploded in 1980, three of 'em--Gary Frenay, Arty Lenin, and Tommy Allen--hung together for a while as Screen Test.
THE LAMBRETTAS: "Cortina MK II" Great British neo-Mod pop band. This is from their Beat Boys In The Jet Age LP.
MAKIN' TIME: "Feels Like It's Love" Another Internet pal compared this one to a cross between Del Shannon and a gospel group. I love it, though I've never even heard of this group. This 12" single was co-produced by Will Birch of The Records.
SHANE FAUBERT: "Hold Me Close" and "She's The One" Goosebump City! Go'geous pop from the former leader of The Cheepskates, from his incomparable San Blass CD.
THE FLAMIN' GROOVIES: "Step Up" Title track from an apparently unauthorized Australian CD. Cyril Jordan was so angered by its release that he swears it will never appear on a legit Groovies disc. Which is a pity, because it's a great song that deserved a better fate.
MARCUS HOOK ROLL BAND: "Natural Man" Terrific early '70s Vanda-Young project.
THE CYNICS: "Girl, You're On My Mind" Though The Cynics are proud to be a neo-garage group, this track (written by Bernie Kugel of The Mystic Eyes) borders on pop, and rocks like nobody's business. Believe it or not, I once saw the video on MTV.
THE BAY CITY ROLLERS: "Wouldn't You Like It" The only track I'm duplicating here from previous volumes, because IT'S GREAT!! If it didn't have the bubblegum stigma, this would have been embraced by new wave and power pop fans everywhere.
TIM MOORE: "Rock And Roll Love Letter" Speaking of the Rollers, here's the original version of a song they covered to chart success. Actually, I prefer the Rollers' pumped-up version, but this is great, too. This is the version The Records later copied for their own able cover a few years later. (And beware: Moore himself also redid this in the '80s, and his remake is horrible.)
VAN DUREN: "Grow Yourself Up" From Duren's Are You Serious? LP, a must for all fans of Eric Carmen, Emitt Rhodes, and The Scruffs.
THE GREG KIHN BAND: "Beside Myself" From the With The Naked Eye LP, which also includes a nice cover of The Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner."
THE KNICKERBOCKERS: "They Ran For Their Lives" I usually avoid putting '60s tracks on comps like these, basically because it's hard to resist putting more on (Easybeats! Choir! Searchers! Hollies! Beau Brummels! STOP ME!). But what the heck. This was apparently the title theme to some lame movie, and it's one of a bunch of great tracks these guys did besides the sublime "Lies."
THE TAXI BOYS: "She" Not the Monkees song. The Taxi Boys were a spin-off of Boston's superb Real Kids, beloved by all fans of aggressive pop.
1.4.5.: "Right Now" 1.4.5. (who are now called The Richards) are led by former Flashcube Paul Armstrong, with singer Norm Mattice. They have a new CD out, but this is from the 1987 Rhythm n' Booze LP.
FOOLS FACE: "Land Of The Hunted" and "Stand Up" One of the all-time finds of my record-collecting career was scoring a copy of this Springfield, Missouri band's Tell America LP in a budget bin circa 1982. It's become one of my favorite albums, and I keep hoping someone will reissue the rest of the group's catalog.
THE NUMBERS: "Can't Sleep At Night" This group's album was a clever pastiche of '60s garage pop, and the liner notes tried with tongue in cheek to pass The Numbers off as a great, shoulda-been-contenders '60s group. They even claimed to have passed up the chance to become The Monkees! Kinda wish they'd bagged the chintzy period-style production, and given this wonderful track the studio treatment it deserved.
THE PANDORAS: "I'll Walk Away" From the posthumously-released Psychedelic Sluts! collection. RIP, Paula.
THE MUFFS: "Saying Goodbye" Absolutely, without qualification, my favorite track of the '90s so far.
THE BUDDY SYSTEM: "Go Back To Hollywood" These guys won an MTV's Basement Tapes contest with a video for this song, released a CD, and disappeared.
THE SALAMANDERS: "Paperboy" Wonderful, dreamy pop, reminiscent of The Greenberry Woods. This is from the Popfest Compilation sampler CD, which also gives us...
JAMIE HOOVER: "Moonlight" Solo track by The Spongetones' Hoover, not as Beatley as the best of the 'Tones, but nice to sway along with.
THE FLASHCUBES: "Radio" B-side to their second single. This won't be on the proposed anthology, because Gary hates it. It is somewhat dated, but I've always dug its direct statement of intent: "I'm sincere/And I hope it's clear/That pop music is my religion/And I don't mean to preach, but I know it's right."
THE SPORTS: "Who Listens To The Radio" Great single, from this Australian band's Don't Throw Stones LP.
TEENAGE HEADS: "Tornado" Toronto's Teenage Head named themselves after the Flamin Groovies song, but pluralized their name for this one release.
THE SHOUTLESS: "I Tell No Lies" Yow! A Swedish band with an unsurpassable cover of The Escapades' garage pop classic. This appeared on Garage Sale!, a sampler cassette of '80s garage bands put out by Goldmine and ROIR. Nice way to end the set. (Though stay tuned for a word from our sponsor.)
HANDS ACROSS THE INTERNET: Pop # 4
Bon jour, y'all! This time out I chose to duplicate a few things from previous cassettes, but I also dug out a few things I haven't listened to meself in quite some time. Consequently, I'm currently enjoying the hell out of this, and I hope all of you will dig it as well.
THE NATIVES: "Tell Me A Story" I wanted to begin the tape with a bunch of songs from my home town of Syracuse, New York. The Natives were a new wave pop group around these parts circa 1981 or so. Lead singer Penny Jo Pullus went on to front local groups Rockin' Bones, The Mudpuppies, and (currently) Penny Jo's Trailer Trash. I still like The Natives best.
CHARLIE ROBBINS WITH SCREEN TEST: "Heart Said Go" I first saw Charlie in the late '70s, when he was a member of a Flashcubes-associated group called Buddy Love and the Tearjerkers (no relation to NYC-based pop singer Buddy Love; our Buddy hadda change his name to B.D. Love). For this late '80s track, Charlie enlisted his old buddies Screen Test, featuring former Flashcubes Gary Frenay and Arty Lenin. Backup vocals here by Maura Boudreau, now one-half of the fab acoustic pop duo Pete and Maura Kennedy.
THE TEARJERKERS: "Syracuse Summer" After Buddy Love split, The Tearjerkers soldiered on with a variety of line-ups; the final Tearjerkers line-up was fronted by future stand-up comedian Tom Kenny. Before Kenny joined, though, the group released its only single, this wonderful Gary Frenay ode to the ephemeral pleasures of Central New York summers. Charlie sings lead, Gary and Arty sing back-up, and Gary sings the bridge. (The day after I put this on tape, a foot of snow was dumped on Syracuse. That has some sort of symbolic meaning I'm sure, but it escapes me at the moment.)
THE FLASHCUBES: "Face To Face" My favorite power pop band of all time, and I'll knock down anybody that disses 'em. This rough-sounding live recording (from a November 1978 show at a Syracuse University nightclub called The Jabberwocky) captures the 'Cubes in all their ragged glory, belting out a Gary Frenay tune that was my first favorite 'Cubes song, propelled by Tommy Allen's awesome over-the-top drumming. There'll eventually be a Flashcubes CD compilation (for which I wrote the liner notes), but this song was never given a finished studio take.
DANNY HOLMES: "Weak Song" Danny just recently moved to Syracuse from nearby Utica, and this is from his debut CD Cool Beans. This track reminds me of Squeeze.
THE ROMANTICS: "Little White Lies" and "I Can't Tell You Anything" Both sides of The Romantics' indie single debut from 1978 or thereabouts. Both tracks were subsequently re-recorded for the group's first and second albums respectively, but neither remake is within light years of these original versions. I don't believe these have been reissued at all, so only we lucky few who picked up the single back then have heard these infinitely superior versions. (Shortly after this single, The Romantics recorded four tracks released by Bomp! These six pre-Columbia tracks, supplemented by whatever else someone can dig out of the vaults, would make a dandy CD reissue, don'tcha think?)
THE FAST: "Kids Just Wanna Dance" Saw this NYC combo play with The Flashcubes once, and picked up their single some time after. This track's the B-side of their "It's Like Love" 45, and was later redone in an inferior version produced by Ric Ocasek. For some unfathomable reason, the Ocasek version was the one used on the group's Fast For Sale LP.
THE VERTEBRATS: "Left In The Dark" In the '80s, I became a rabid devotee of garage revival bands. This track appeared on Voxx's first Battle Of The Garages compilation. Terrific, swaggering punk-pop with a chip on its shoulder and a heart on its sleeve. (Another Vertebrats track, "Diamonds In The Rough," is even better, but I don't own a copy--yet!)
THE VIPERS: "Tears (Only Dry)" NYC garage band, from their debut LP Outta The Nest! Oddly reminiscent of a more raucous Shoes, of all things.
THE CHEEPSKATES: "I'll Be Around" We know it's okay for tape tree participants to include their own work; is it okay to include work by other tape tree participants? Shane Faubert, aka our own Shane5465, fronted The Cheepskates, a garage band whose "Run Better Run" should be acknowledged as a classic. The group quickly outgrew the perceived confines of the genre, and this track from their 1987 Remember album shows how accomplished their pop was.
SHANE FAUBERT: "Will You Be There Tomorrow" and "Ophelia" Oh, this is gorgeous stuff, from Shane's Kalkara and San Blass albums respectively. When my editor sent me a copy of San Blass to review for Goldmine, I didn't know much about Shane, but I quickly became a big fan. All of his stuff is well worth any effort to track down (plus he's a swell guy to have on-line).
ON THE AIR: "This Can't Be Real" An L.A. group I think, I know nothing about this all-female act. This is from a six-song mini-LP.
SCREEN TEST: "We Connect" Unreleased demo--Gary has re-recorded the song for his next album, Jigsaw People (named for a line in this song), due out in the spring.
THE FLASHCUBES: "I Want To Stay All Night" I've always loved this obvious tribute to The Raspberries. I remember the night they played it live for the first time, at The Slide Inn in Syracuse, a few days before guitarist Paul Armstrong was ejected from the band, signalling the beginning of the end for The Flashcubes. Most of the post-Armstrong recordings sound hollow to my ears, and this is no exception. But it's a great song, and I'm told the remixed version (with added rhythm guitar parts from back-in-the-fold Paul) does the song justice. Here's a taste for now.
WALTER CLEVENGER: "My Little Girl" Further illustration of what a wonderful thing this cyber online crap really is. Walter, a huge pop fan, recorded a bunch of his songs in his bedroom, put 'em on a cassette, and did an on-line search for power pop fans, sending copies of the cassette to interested parties like me. I got the tape, and was blown away. This guy's good, and I hope we'll hear lots more from him soon.
THE HUMAN SWITCHBOARD: "(Say No To) Saturday's Girl" Moody, atmospheric pop from the Ohio-based combo circa 1981.
THE LAUGHING DOGS: "Get 'Im Outa Town" Aggressive and Beatley at the same time, The Laughing Dogs' resume includes two Columbia LPs and a late '70s stint as backing band for Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones.
THE INSIDERS: "Leave Me Alone" When I was living in the small college town of Brockport, NY in the early '80s,I loved to go see this young Rochester band rock through their repertoire of '60s covers and like-minded originals. I understand they released a single, but this compilation LP track is all I have to remember 'em by.
ON THE AIR: "You've Got What I Want" and "Carole" Also from the six-song mini-LP. I know the group also appeared on Rhino's The Girls Can't Help It compilation; if they did anything else, I wanna know about it.
NEW MATH: "Die Trying" This Rochester band eventually metamorphosed into The Jet Black Berries, but I found 'em far more interesting in this incarnation. (Oddly enough, this wasn't a local single--though it was eventually reissued by a Rochester label--but a British release.)
THE ROLLERS: "Who'll Be My Keeper" and "Roxy Lady" After the teen mania died down and original lead singer Les McKeown split, The Bay City Rollers shortened their name, enlisted a new lead singer named Duncan Faure, and briefly attempted to gain respect as a reg'lar rock band. "Who'll Be My Keeper" is from 1979's Elevator, the last Rollers album issued in the USA, while "Roxy Lady" is from 1981's Ricochet, available in Canada.
THE CICHLIDS: "Did You Ever" Obscure Florida (maybe?) band covering The Hullabaloos. Cool!
SIMPLY SAUCER: "She's A Dog" I read about this Mississauga, Ontario band in Toronto's Pig Paper fanzine, and later found this single in the free-with-purchase bin at my local record store.
THE REVILLOS: "Mind Bending Cutie Doll" Rising from the ashes of The Rezillos, what little I've heard of The Revillos indicates they carried their former group's loopy pop legacy proudly. This was the B-side of a cover of Screaming Lord Sutch's "She's Fallen In Love With The Monster Man," and I have no idea whether or not it's non-LP.
SCREEN TEST: "Make Something Happen" One of my favorite Gary Frenay songs brings the set to a close. In the perfect world of my imagining, The Gin Blossoms, Marshall Crenshaw, and even the reunited Monkees would all compete for the honor of covering this flawless pop gem, and one of them would have a monster hit with it.
This tape ends with a pair of radio spots The Flashcubes did in 1979 (that's Paul on the first spot, Gary and Tommy on the second). Lemme tell ya--I was at that show, and it was incredible. And I still have the EP.) [2016 NOTE: the radio spots were for a live show by Artful Dodger, with the 'Cubes opening.]
Jeez, another tape done and still no room for The Mod Frames, Quincy, The Most, or The Presstones. Maybe next time?
CC! SAYS (Tape Tree # 3)
Boy howdy! Here's another mix of the obscure and the sorta-familiar, with plenty of regional (Syracuse-Buffalo-Rochester-Albany) stuff thrown in so you know it's me.
THE FLASHCUBES: "You Only Get One Life" Brand new track from my favorite power pop act. This is on bassist Gary Frenay's new solo album Jigsaw People.
THE LAMBRETTAS: "Da-a-a-ance" Terrific early '80s Mod pop, from the Beat Boys In The Jet Age LP. One of my favorite pop tunes ever; from just before the instrumental break on, it totally sends me. "It's up to you, whoa-oh...!)
THE OHMS: "License To Kill" Unreleased demo track from this late '70s Syracuse group. They released one killer 45,""Chain Letter"/"Teenage Alcoholic," cut some great demos, and promptly split up. Drummer Ducky Carlisle is now an occasional deputy Flashcube (he's on the 'Cubes tracks on the Paul Collins and Raspberries tribute CDs), and he's married to Robin Lane (of Robin Lane and the Chartbusters.)
THE TOYS: "I'm Telling You Now" Not the Freddie and the Dreamers hit. I think every town must have had a quasi-new wave band called The Toys in the late '70s. Syracuse had one--I vaguely remember them as mediocre--but this was Buffalo's version. Never thought much of this 1980 single before, but found myself digging it when reviewing stuff to put on this tape.
THE MOD FRAMES: "Anyone After You" This NYC band's main claim to fame was that it included Creem's then-editor Billy Altman. This tune, the A-side of a 1981 single, was written by the group's other front guy, Ben Rosenblatt. Seems like there's a few high notes here that he can't...quite...hit, but I like it nonetheless.
CHRIS VON SNEIDERN: "Too Much To Do" Non-album A-side from CVS' 1991 debut single. He's a West Coaster now, but Chris is originally from this neck of the woods (just like Adam Marsland!), so we still claim him as one of our own.
THE PRESSTONES: "Passion Or The Pain" 1982 single from this Rochester band, who I once saw deliver a cool set before an indifferent crowd at my college. (The same sort of stupid crowd at that school also booed Elvis Costello and the Attractions off stage in '78. Cretins.)
THE NOW: "He's Takin' You To The Movies" From this cheesy (phony) new wave group's 1979 LP, this transcends its artless origins to provide a bracing jolt of radio-ready pop.
THE TEARAWAYS: "Nowhere Left To Turn" Yow! Most of you probably know this Santa Monica group, but for those who don't here's an essential taste from their 1993 debut, See The Sound. A different track from that album, "Jessica Something," is supposed to be on Rhino's forthcoming Poptopia '90s disc, but this is the real standout.
THE VERTEBRATS: "Diamonds In The Rough" Our pal Greg Ogarrio introduced me to this fab anti-draft single, now preserved for the digital age on the group's A Thousand Day Dream anthology, which I bought from our other pal Bruce at Not Lame.
THE OHMS: "You're So Surreal" Another unreleased demo.
THE MONKEES: "Love To Love" and "She'll Be There" In response to Gary Graff awarding a mere one-bone rating to each of The Monkees' Missing Links collections, I give you two nifty tracks from the third and final disc in the series. "Love To Love" was the best of the four Neil Diamond tunes The Monkees recorded (and, of course, the only one that wasn't released), and is Davy Jones' strongest moment on record. "She'll Be There" is a gorgeous one-take demo by Micky Dolenz and his sister Coco. (One friggin' bone?! Oh, Gary...!)
THE TARTAN HORDE: "Bay City Rollers, We Love You" Nick Lowe's companion piece to "Rollers Show," unreleased in this country.
THE BAY CITY ROLLERS: "Too Young To Rock And Roll" An ode to jailbait, sure, but one of the Rollers' most rockin' tracks. From the Rock And Roll Love Letter LP.
THE FLASHCUBES: "Wait Till Next Week" From 1979, the group's second and final single. I also have a '78 live version with the original line about Greg Shaw (the song's inspiration), and a 1995 live version with a line about...um, me. Flashcubes CD anthology should finally be out soon--I've heard the final mixes, and they're killer.
GIGOLO AUNTS: "Summertime Evening" From the 1988 Everybody Happy album, and far janglier than the more recent Flippin' Out.
JALE: "All Ready" Taped this off MTV--BigStar303 tells me it's the only good thing on the group's album, but what a cool track!
COLOR ME GONE: "Lose Control" Marti Jones' best-ever moment, from her old group's 1984 EP.
FEAR OF STRANGERS: "Shopping For A Dog" From this Albany group's 1982 album, this track reminds me of a poppier Lou Ann Barton, of all things. Lead singer Val Haynes later became Bar/None recording artist Lonesome Val.
SLADE: "Do We Still Do It" Their reputation sullied by the metal morons of Quiet Riot, these guys sounded awesome on AM radio in the mid-'70s ("Gudbuy T' Jane" was a major fave on WOLF here). This is a lesser-known track from the 1974 Stomp Your Hands, Clap Your Feet LP.
THE KNACK: "Good Girls Don't" 45 version, with cleaner lyrics--no one's sitting on anyone's face or getting in anyone's pants here, thankyouverymuch.
CATHOLIC GIRLS: "Boys Can Cry" All-female foursome dressed in Catholic school uniforms, from their 1982 album.
THE MOD FRAMES: "I Don't Want To Cry" Billy Altman this time, with the B-side to "Anyone After You."
SCREEN TEST: "Nothing Really Matters When You're Young" From the 1981 EP Inspired Humans Making Noise. Screen Test was 3/4 of The Flashcubes (Gary Frenay, Arty Lenin, and Tommy Allen), and this is my favorite Arty Lenin tune.
THE POPPEES: "If She Cries" The most overtly Beatley group in New York in the mid-'70s, The Poppees ultimately evolved into the fab Sorrows. This is from a Bomp! single, I presume, though I have it on the Best Of Bomp! LP.
THE RATTLERS: "Livin' Alone" B-side of their 1979 "On The Beach" single. Head Rattler Mitch Leigh is Joey Ramone's little brudder.
THE EYES: "I'm Rowed Out" Mid-'60s British Mod pop, another one I learned from Greg Ogarrio.
THE OHMS: "Boppin' At The USO" One more unreleased demo. I originally had a Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart track in this spot, but this seemed to fit in better.
THE RICHARDS: "5 Personalities" This one got in just under the wire. After I'd already started dubbing, I received this in the mail from Paul Armstrong (of The Flashcubes and The Richards), and was compelled to tape over a Nikki and the Corvettes track to make room for this wonderful rouser, which reminds me of a more raucous XTC. This was originally supposed to be on the next Pop Matters disc, but I guess the fat of that set is in question.
Yet another tape down, and I still haven't included The Ohms' "Chain Letter" and "Teenage Alcoholic," nor anything by The Most, nor The Flashcubes' "Born To Cry," which was cut from the anthology. Next time? CC!
2016 POSTSCRIPT: Reading all of this now gives me a vivid reminder of what a blast it was to make these tapes, and to share fave obscurities in the hope of turning fellow pop fans on to something they might not have discovered otherwise. That notion is certainly one of the driving forces of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl. A few of the tracks on these tapes even wound up on one or another of our three officially-released This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilation CDs; I suppose it's evident that the TIRnRR CDs are guided by the same philosophy that inspired these original mixtapes to begin with: You like pop songs? I like pop songs, too! Here are some pop songs I think you're gonna like.
That's a higher calling. Formats and venues may change, but the love of the song remains the same.