- 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.
Saturday, July 2, 2016
A new single by THE FLASHCUBES!
Here's another reason to attend BRIGHT LIGHTS! The Syracuse New Wave Rock 'n' Roll Reunion this Sunday, July 3rd, at Funk N' Waffles: it'll be your first chance to purchase the brand-new single from Syracuse's own power pop powerhouse, The Flashcubes.
Now, when I was 18, summer of '78, I recall haunting Gerber Music's Penn Can Mall location, pestering the harried clerks there just about daily, buggin' 'em about when The Flashcubes' new single would be available. Ya think "just about daily" is an exaggeration? I worked at Penn Can Mall that summer--I had a summer job as a janitor at Sears, with a 6-10 am shift each morning--so it was no big for me to clock out at Sears and head over to Gerber's to see if the damned thing was out yet. See, Gerber's had an advance copy of the 45--it was hanging up, right behind the counter--but the artwork hadn't been printed yet, and it certainly wasn't available for sale. I'm pretty sure this is where Tom Petty got the inspiration for his lyrics, "The waiting is the hardest part." Oh, the ache! Oh, the anticipation! Oh, the patience of the Gerber staff, as they somehow restrained themselves from rolling their eyes and bootin' me outta there awready. Bless their hearts, they even granted my plea--well, if whining and begging can be described as a "plea"--to at least let me hear the record. I knew the songs already from The Flashcubes' live shows, but this was a record, dammit! I needed to hear it.
And that's how I first experienced The Flashcubes' first single, "Christi Girl." Lord, bless the staff at Gerber Music for now and forever. Subsequent visits allowed a teasing little taste of the two songs on the B-side, "Guernica" and "Got No Mind," and I think maybe one more spin of "Christi Girl" before I was cut off, forced to wait impatiently for the single's actual release.
The summer of '78 was an odd one for me. I was home in North Syracuse, fresh from my freshman year in college. I'd gotten the Sears job through my friend Tom LaMere, who was already working there. Even a part-time job meant a little money in my pocket, so I was able to buy import punk singles by The Jam and Generation X, and I was able to go with friends to see The Flashcubes as often as I could manage it. I had broken up with my college girlfriend, and I would spend much of that summer trying (and failing) to mend relations with a girl I'd known in high school (note to regular readers: no, not that girl). Oh, and I started the summer break by seeing The Kinks in concert; see, that's how you kick off a vacation!
My parents were away for parts of the summer. I resisted any temptation to throw a huge, drunken party at the house in their absence, though I did manage to shelter both an AWOL Marine and a runaway teenaged girl at different times over the course of those summer months; those are stories for another time (if ever). I moved my cheap bedroom stereo into the living room, and played my 45s and LP cuts, my Ramones and Romantics and Herman's Hermits and Searchers and Shaun Cassidy, and I played "Christi Girl" and "Guernica" and "Got No Mind." And then I'd go see The Flashcubes play those songs live. Rock, repeat. It really wasn't a bad way to spend the summer.
The Flashcubes' second single was released in the Spring of 1979. I'd read about it in the newspapers, and was dyin' to get it, but I was away at school, and wouldn't even be returning to Syracuse for Spring Break. No, I was New York City-bound! I'd met a new girl during the fall semester--Brenda, a girl from Staten Island--so I'd be travelin' downstate to meet her parents and spend time in the general Big Apple vicinity. A scan of that week's Village Voice revealed that The Flashcubes would be playing at a club on Bowery, so I adjusted my itinerary accordingly.
The club was Gildersleeves, and The Flashcubes' show there in '79 remains the only NYC club show I've ever attended. I recall passing CBGB's on the way there, but never venturing inside--it is to weep! But anyway, Brenda and I made it to Gildersleeves to see the 'Cubes. When we arrived, Gary Frenay recognized me, and said, "Carl, what are you doing here?" "I'm here to see you guys!" was my clever reply. Gary sold me two copies of "Wait Till Next Week"/"Radio," The Flashcubes' brand-new single--one for me, and one for my pal Jay Hammond, who I would be visiting at Stony Brook within a few days thereafter. The Flashcubes proceeded to rip a new orifice into the Gildersleeves stage, impressing even the native New Yorkers with an able demonstration of what rockin' pop is all about. A loud demonstration of what rockin' pop is all about--wouldn'ta been The Flashcubes otherwise!
By the following summer, Flashcubes fans likely presumed there would be a third single--probably "No Promise"/"She's Not The Girl," the two Flashcubes tracks that had made it into airplay rotation on 95X. But The Flashcubes imploded instead, and there was no third single.
Much has changed since 1979. And yes, I'll pause to allow you sufficient time to process and express the appropriate level of shock at this revelation. Gerber Music, like all of the other record stores of that era, is long, long gone. Gildersleeves is as dead--deader!--as CBGB's, Max's Kansas City, The Ritz, and all my local faves like The Jab and The Firebarn. For well or ill, the internet has made everything immediate. Anticipation? That takes too damned long. I want it now.
I have already heard both tracks on the new single, both of 'em covers of songs originally done by exalted British guitar hero Chris Spedding. And I've heard 'em live many times, as The Flashcubes' own in-concert renditions of "Boogie City" and "Hey Miss Betty" (the latter tune an ode to legendary '50s sex goddess Bettie Page) were my first exposure to these songs, long before I heard Spedding's originals.
(Side note: I once chatted with Chris Spedding briefly at Uncle Sam's in Syracuse, circa 1980. He was slummin...er, playing guitar with a band called The Necessaries when they were on tour with The Pretenders. I recognized him at the club, and [uncharacteristically of me] went over to his little table to talk with him. I asked him why The Necessaries didn't perform any of Spedding's own solo material, like "Boogie City" or "Motorbikin'." He politely demurred, saying, "No, the band is The Necessaries; we won't need to do anything of mine." He autographed a Dead Ducks flyer, and I thanked him kindly.)
Does the fact that I've already heard--and, in fact, already have, in digital form--both of these new Flashcubes tracks dampen my enthusiasm for a new Flashcubes single? Rhetorical question, right? Because I'm thrilled to finally have another Flashcubes single to add to my collection. Sure, it's a CD single rather than a 45--though I believe an eventual vinyl release is still planned--but I don't care: it's a new single by The Flashcubes! I'm gettin' it. I'm buyin' it. Don't even bother trying to slip me a promo copy, bub. Shut up and take my money!
Money well-spent, too. Anticipation. Satisfaction. From Gerber Music to Gildersleeves to Funk 'N Waffles, maybe some things haven't changed all that much. See you tomorrow night at BRIGHT LIGHTS!
BRIGHT LIGHTS! The Syracuse New Wave Rock 'n' Roll Reunion is Sunday, July 3rd at Funk 'N Waffles, 307-313 South Clinton Street in Syracuse. The show starts promptly at 7 pm, with live performances by Tom Kenny, The Flashcubes, Screen Test, The Trend, The Dead Ducks, Maura and the Bright Lights, and a tribute to Norm Mattice performed by The Richards. Your hosts are Dana & Carl, and tickets are available here. Hope to see you there!