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 three 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, May 12, 2016

UNFINISHED AND ABANDONED: The Original BOPPIN' (LIKE THE HIP FOLKS DO!)

Unfinished And Abandoned digs deeeeep into my unpublished archives, and exhumes projects that I started (sometimes barely started) but abandoned, unfinished. I am such a quitter.

                                   
                                           
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Around 1997, when I was still freelancing for Goldmine magazine, I came up with an idea for an interactive column called Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do!), a catchy title I should probably try to use again someday.  While many of my Unfinished And Abandoned works are pieces I just never finished, I actually did complete two pilot entries in this series.  I abandoned the concept when it became clear that Goldmine wasn't interested in a regular column from me.  Get back to writin' them reviews, boy!  DISCoveries also passed on the idea, so this project was stillborn.  Since we never got past the hey-wouldn't-this-be-cool query stage, no one has ever seen these two pieces before (though I'm sure I cobbled something from them for other projects.  Efficiency.  I'm all about the efficieny).

EPISODE # 1:  SECRET ORIGINS

Boy Howdy, and welcome to Goldmine's newest column, an informal monthly music chat just between you and me.  This column is designed to be the print equivalent of the online music chats and bulletin boards that all us computer geeks are going crazy for.  The format's simple:  I propose a topic for discussion, and you step up eagerly to offer your own witty, insightful, and occasionally knuckleheaded take on the matter at hand.

Unlike Goldmine's other fine monthly columns, each of which is devoted to a specific area of music and/or collecting, Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do!) is, like the Seinfeld TV show, about nothing.  Or rather, it has no specific overriding theme beyond just allowing us to talk, bicker, and amuse or disgust each other with our opinions of all matters related to rock, pop, and soul music.

For a music fanatic, there's nothing quite like talking about music with other music fanatics.  If you've ever visited an online music chat, or if you've ever just chewed the fat with some stranger at a record show about how great some obscure Jive Five or Fools Face record is, then you know what I'm talking about.

Let's face it:  most normal people simply do not care about pop music to the extent that your typical avid (or rabid) Goldmine reader does.  We like talking about our favorite records, about underrated performers and unheralded performances, about that one elusive Holy Grail record we've been searching for, or the long-sought treasure we just stumbled over for 50 cents at a garage sale.  Our only trouble is finding someone else who's interested in talking about such glorious ephemera.

The internet and the various online services have catered to this need.  I've been online (first with Prodigy, then with America Online) for a few years now, and I've encountered lots of rock 'n' rollers who've been delighted to find like-minded souls with whom to discuss our rockin' passions.  For many, this is their only opportunity to talk with other music hobbyists.  Very, very often, you'll see such folks comment, "I thought I was the only one in the world who was into this stuff!"

I know what they mean.  When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I was a big fan of such great, now-defunct rock rags as Phonograph Record Magazine, Bomp!, Trouser Press, and Creem, each of which offered spunk and attitude to spare, all in service to the love of music.  These magazines introduced me to many performers who are now among my all-time favorites, and proved to me that I was certainly not alone in my interests.

With this column, I hope to re-create the buzz I used to get from reading the opinions of people who care passionately about their pop music.  Of course,we won't just be reading my opinions here, though there'll be no shortage of those.  No, this is an interactive column, which means we wanna hear what you have to say.

One regular feature in the late, lamented Trouser Press was the Raving Faves column, which posed a reader's poll question each month and subsequently printed the results.  The poll questions included such queries as "Favorite band you've never heard,""Favorite song over seven minutes long," and "Best/Worst cover of a Chuck Berry song" (the latter topic suggested by some guy named Jeff Tamarkin).

So, here goes with our inaugural Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do!) reader's poll.  This one was first posed, in different form, by true believer (and online music pal) Greg Ogarrio:  through some cosmic combination of black magic and dumb luck, you have an opportunity to join one of your favorite groups on stage to perform one song of your choice.  What group do you want to join, and what one song do you wanna do?  I'll allow you to list up to three groups, from any era, but you're only allowed one song per group (by which time security will have noticed that you're not supposed to be on stage, and will proceed to hurl your ass outta there).

Deadline for responses is one month from this issue's cover date.  And welcome to the wonderful world of Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do).

EPISODE # 2: The Hot 100

Welcome to another exciting installment of Goldmine's reader-participation column, where we ask you, the loyal Goldmine reader, to entertain us with your opinions regarding the music you love and the music you loathe.  Actually, since this is only our second column, we're still a looooong ways off from assembling any bona fide reader responses for public consumption, so we've gotta kill some time.  La da dee, la da daaaa....

One annual time-killing ritual that I've become quite fond of is to compile an updated list of my 100 all-time favorite tracks.  I've been doing this every year since 1985, inspired by true believer Fritz Van Leaven (who's been compiling his own such lists since the dawn of time).  To provoke discussion--and by that I mean discussion beyond sage observations that I suck and have no taste--my 1997 update is reproduced here, listed alphabetically by song title.  To wit:

5 Personalities--The Richards
99th Floor--The Moving Sidewalks
All For The Girl--Richard X. Heyman
All My Loving--The Beatles
Baby Blue--Badfinger
Babysitter--The Ramones
Beach Baby--The First Class
Bittersweet--The Hoodoo Gurus
Blitzkrieg Bop--The Ramones
Carbona Not Glue--The Ramones
Catch Us If You Can--The Dave Clark Five
Chinese Rocks--The Heartbreakers
Couldn't I Just Tell You--Todd Rundgren
Da-a-a-ance--The Lambrettas
Diamonds In The Rough--The Vertebrats
Do Anything You Wanna Do--Eddie and the Hot Rods
Do You Wanna Dance?--The Ramones
The Door Into Summer--The Monkees
A Face In The Crowd--The Flashcubes
First Plane Home--The Flamin' Groovies
Follow Me--Artful Dodger
Fool Of Love--The Bobby Fuller Four
Glad All Over--The Dave Clark Five
Go All The Way--The Raspberries
God Save The Queen--The Sex Pistols
Good Vibrations--The Beach Boys
A Hard Day's Night--The Beatles
Have You Ever Been Torn Apart?--The Spongetones
Have You Ever Loved Somebody--The Searchers
Heart Full Of Soul--The Yardbirds
Help!--The Beatles
Help You Ann--The Lyres
His Last Summer--The Barracudas
Hold Me Tight--The Beatles
I Fought The Law--The Bobby Fuller Four
I Tell No Lies--The Shoutless
I Wanna Be With You--The Raspberries
I Wanna Stay All Night--The Flashcubes
I Won't Let You Let Me Go--The Poptarts
I'd Rather You Leave Me--The Choir
(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone--The Monkees
In The Midnight Hour--Wilson Pickett
It's Cold Outside--Stiv Bators
It's My Life--The Animals
Jealousy--The Poptarts
Laugh, Laugh--The Beau Brummels
Liar, Liar--The Castaways
Lies--The Knickerbockers
Litany (Life Goes On)--Guadalcanal Diary
(Look Out) Here Comes Tomorrow--The Monkees
Lose Control--Color Me Gone
Love To Love--The Monkees
Make Something Happen--Screen Test
A Million Miles Away--The Plimsouls
Miserlou--Dick Dale and his Deltones
My Back Pages--The Byrds
(My Girl) Maryanne--The Spongetones
No Promise--The Flashcubes
No Reply--The Beatles
Nothing Really Matters When You're Young--Screen Test
Now You Know--The Real Kids
Open Up Your Door--The Romantics
Ophelia--Shane Faubert
Please Please Me--The Beatles
Rain--The Beatles
Rock And Roll All Nite--KISS
Rock And Roll Love Letter--The Bay City Rollers
Rockaway Beach--The Ramones
Saying Goodbye--The Muffs
Second Cousin--The Flamin Groovies
September Gurls--Big Star
Shake Some Action--The Flamin' Groovies
She Say Yea--The Scruffs
She's Leaving--The Flashcubes
Sheena Is A Punk Rocker--The Ramones
Shout It Out Loud--KISS
Solitary Man--Neil Diamond
Somewhere Outside--The Barracudas
Starry Eyes--The Records
Sugar, Sugar--Wilson Pickett
Syracuse Summer--The Tearjerkers
Tayter Country--The Cavedogs
Tell Me A Story--The Natives
That Thing You Do!--The Wonders
Thank You, Girl--The Beatles
They Ran For Their Lives--The Knickerbockers
Tomorrow Night--Shoes
True Love Ways--Buddy Holly
Uncle John's Band--The Grateful Dead
Wait Till Next Week--The Flashcubes
Waterloo Sunset--The Kinks
What Am I Doing Hangin''Round?--The Monkees
What I Like About You--The Romantics
What Time Is It?--The Jive Five
Wouldn't You Like It--The Bay City Rollers
You Really Got Me--The Kinks
You Tore Me Down--The Flamin' Groovies
You Were So Warm--The Dwight Twilley Band
You're Gonna Miss Me--The 13th Floor Elevators
You've Got To Hide Your Love Away--The Beatles

Note that these are my 100 favorite tracks, and not necessarily what I think are the 100 greatest tracks of all time.  Is there a difference?  I think there is.  "Greatest" implies the application of some systematic criteria, some objective evaluation of merit; "favorite" just deals in what you happen to dig a whole lot.  The latter category is waaaaaaay more fun.

Sometimes a record becomes a personal favorite for idiosyncratic reasons.  For example, while there are many other Buddy Holly records that pundits would rate above "True Love Ways," that was my wedding song, and it therefore has more sentimental value to me than "Rave On" or "Peggy Sue" (though I listened to my Coral 45 of the latter tune every day before school when I was 13). By the same token, "All My Loving" was the first song I sang to my newborn daughter, so it has a resonance for me that, say, "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" can't match.

(Though, come to think of it, Meghan screamed in absolute misery when I sang "All My Loving" to her, so maybe I should rethink its inclusion here.  Or take singing lessons.)

If you have a particular favorite artist, that act is likely to fare very well on your own list.  A pal of mine made an abortive attempt to compile his own Hot 100, and came up with a partial list dominated by his favorite, Elton John.  My list has a lot of entries for The Flashcubes (and related groups Screen Test and The Richards), a Syracuse-area power pop group that meant a great deal to me when I was 18, and whose music continues to thrill me today.  Multiple entries for The Beatles, Monkees, Flamin' Groovies, and Ramones reflect my overwhelming affection for those groups.

On the other hand, I'm vaguely embarrassed by the apparent snubbing of many of my all-time favorite acts.  For example:  where the hell are The Hollies?  Hey, Little Richard's missing too!  What happened to The Drifters, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Skeletons, The Ventures, The Four Tops, Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry, The Go-Go's, The Who...?  Can I really say with a straight face that "That Thing You Do!" by the fictional Wonders is superior to every razzafrazzin' track ever done by The Rolling Stones?!

Well...no, I can't.  But I can say that "That Thing You Do!" has gotten more airplay in my personal mental radio station lately than anything by the Stones.  All of this is based on fleeting perception, and changes on a whim without warning.  And that's how it oughtta be.

Although printing this list here is admittedly somewhat self-indulgent, it also allows you a sneak peek at the frame of reference I bring to every review I write.  The next time I happen to dis a record you love, you can console yourself by noting, "Well, sure, that's the guy who likes The Bay City Rollers!"

But, more importantly for the purpose of this column, you now have an opportunity to respond.  I'm not so much interested in hearing what you think of my list--let's face it, folks, I'm not gonna start hating "Beach Baby" just on your say-so--but we do wanna see your own lists.

What are your all-time favorite tracks?  I got away with listing 100 faves, primarily because it's my column and I've got compromising photos of the editor in a Menudo T-shirt that ensure I'll retain control of my column. But I'm limiting you to a maximum of five, and we mean it, man.  All lists of six or more tracks will be shredded and fed to Mr. Floppy, the rabid, omnivorous Goldmine Bunny. Be sure to list both title and artist, and the results will be tabulated and printed here.  Deadline is one month from this issue's cover date.  Have fun!

2016 POSTSCRIPT:  The closest I ever got to doing anything at all like this for Goldmine was when I wrote an article about compiling The Definitive Rock 'n' Roll Jukebox, and asked readers for suggestions on compiling a second Definitive Rock 'n' Roll Jukebox.   I compiled the readers' responses, and wrote it all up for a subsequent issue.  Those two jukebox pieces were the last things I ever wrote for Goldmine.

Mr. Floppy, the Goldmine Bunny, cosplaying as Hoppy the Marvel Bunny