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 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.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Happy Birthday, Dad




Today is October 1st. It would have been Dad's 97th birthday. Happy Birthday, Turnaround Bob--you're still with me every day. And I bet the Yankees win a lot more games where you are now.


 


LOST IN THE GROOVES: TELL AMERICA by FOOLS FACE




I wrote here about my contributions to a 2005 book called Lost In The Grooves, a collection of short essays billed as a "capricious guide to the music you missed." We've already seen what I had to say about The Ramones' Subterranean Jungle album; this was my other entry in Lost In The Grooves:

FOOLS FACE
Tell America (Talk, 1981)

Based in Springfield, Missouri, Fools Face earned raves in the pages of Trouser Press and Creem, but remained criminally unnoticed by the general public. Even interested parties have had a hard time actually buying a damned Fools Face record. To this day, I own the only copies I've ever seen of the group's three elusive LPs, plus a bootleg CD-R of the final cassette-only release, The Red Tape.

Within the pop underground, however, Fools Face is renowned. For me, the moment of revelation came via the first track on the group's second album, Tell America. "American Guilt" is an acid-tongued critique of both gung-ho Reagan-era jingoism and mushy-headed neo-hippie naivete, lyrically as incendiary as a testimonial from The MC5, but with a perfect pop sheen. When the chorus soars with the lines, "When push comes to shove/All you need is love," the transcendent effect of the Beatles quote nails everything into place.

By turns confident and vulnerable, Fools Face was always literate, intelligent, musically accomplished, rooted in '60s songcraft but forged in the crucible of '70s punk and new wave. The individual tracks make the case: "Nothing To Say" is the best break-up song ever, encompassing casual heartache (or heartlessness?) and a matter-of-fact recognition of the need to just move on; "Land Of The Hunted" and "Stand Up" compress paranoia and determination into an irresistible 1-2 punch; "L5" even manages a compelling pop tune about space colonization.

Many fans prefer the group's third album, 1983's just-as-wonderful Public Places, though few will speak on behalf of Here To Observe, the merely okay 1979 debut. As a happy postscript, the original quintet returned for a splendid reunion CD in 2002, an album that lives up to the promise of Tell America and Public Places. Tell...someone!

2016 POSTSCRIPT: That eponymous 2002 reunion disc was joined on the retail shelves by a vintage live performance, released under the title of Live At Last. Good luck finding any of it. 

While you may not be able to track down any Fools Face albums or CDs, you can still get a copy of Lost In The Grooves via Amazon. Watch this space for one more unpublished Lost In The Grooves piece in the near future. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Quick Takes For G





Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock 'n' roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it's the subsequent visits--the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time--that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

GENERATION X



Bomp! magazine's epic power pop issue in early 1978 was the first I ever heard of this British punk (sorta) group. I may or may not have heard them on campus that Spring--there was a Punk Night at our on-campus bar The Rathskeller, and occasional punk/new wave records played on our radio station, WBSU, and either of those sources could have served up some Generation X--but I can say with certainty that I bought two Generation X import 45s by the end of that summer. The singles were "Ready, Steady, Go" and "Your Generation," and I loved both of those loud 'n' vibrant records beyond rational description. "Your Generation" was also included on an album called Geef Voor New Wave, a freakin' fantastic compilation that no home should be without. But I never got around to owning any Generation X albums. I bought one more single, "Dancing With Myself" (billed under the truncated name "Gen X"), and remained resolutely unmoved by lead singer Billy Idol's subsequent solo success. Local faves The Dead Ducks used to cover Generation X's "King Rocker" in their live set, and just recently opened their 2016 set at Bright Lights! The Syracuse New Wave Rock 'n' Roll Reunion with a rendition of "Ready, Steady, Go." And while I never got any Generation X LPs, I do have the Perfect Hits best-of CD. And I want it fabulous!

THE GHOST RIDER



Some time in the early '70s, I received a grocery bag full of fairly recent comic books. I have no recollection of who gave them to me, but I think it was probably a friend of someone in my family, just passing on a bunch of funnybooks they had and didn't want. These contained a number of Marvel Comics titles, including some outside the superhero genre that was my main interest. So this was a great opportunity to try out a bunch of titles I might not have seen otherwise. I remember an Amazing Adventures starring The Beast (whom I'd previously known in his original, less-furry form in The X-Men), an issue of Sub-Mariner (featuring some of the last work from the character's creator, Bill Everett, and inspiring my immediate affection for Subby's nubile young cousin Namorita), and an issue of Marvel Spotlight, introducing a new character called Ghost Rider. (I was..what? 12 or 13? Forgive me that Namorita made a more lasting impression than Johnny Blaze, his motorcycle and blazing skull notwithstanding.)



THE GRASS ROOTS

 

Sometimes I find that my vivid memories of discovering specific pop songs don't jibe with any real-world chronology. I remember listening to "Sooner Or Later" by The Grass Roots on the radio when it was a hit in 1971. I also recall their hits "Midnight Confessions" and "Temptation Eyes" later being cherished staples of my AM radio heyday...but both of those predate "Sooner Or Later." Looking back, I can only presume WOLF or WNDR was still mixing those latter tracks into their hits lineup well after the fact, and I was too stupid to realize they weren't current hits.

GREEN ARROW



It's possible that I saw Green Arrow's young sidekick Speedy guest-starring in an issue of Teen Titans before I ever saw The Emerald Archer himself. My first G.A. sighting was near the end of Justice League Of America # 55 in 1967, where he was one of a quartet of JLA members (along with Superman, The Flash, and Green Lantern) brought in to meet a crisis. Those four made the cover of the next issue (pictured above). Green Arrow and Speedy had been created in the 1940s as a copy of Batman and Robin; by '67, Green Arrow was the only JLA member without his own ongoing solo series--even The Martian Manhunter had a back-up series in House Of Mystery, but G.A. was a free agent. Green Arrow was also featured prominently in the next issue ("Man, Thy Name Is--Brother!" in JLA # 57), and was the center of attention in "Operation: Jail The Justice League!" in JLA # 61, my favorite issue of JLA for a good long time after that. Green Arrow was given new life with a costume redesign by Neal Adams in a Batman team-up in The Brave And The Bold in 1969, and given a lasting shake-up in the early '70s by Adams and writer Dennis O'Neil in their headline-making series Green Lantern/Green Arrow.




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Our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin' pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins' BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery: BRIAN WILSON, HERMAN'S HERMITS, AND THE PET SOUNDS OF THE SOUL




I had hit another rough patch. That happens sometimes.

I circled the date on the calendar as soon as it was announced: August 29th, 2016. Brian Wilson was bringing his band to the New York State Fair for a show at Chevrolet Court, free with admission to the fair. Advance sale fair tickets were a mere six bucks. For twelve dollars, lovely wife Brenda and I would get to see The Brian Wilson Band perform Pet Sounds--likely the greatest pop album of all time--in its entirety, along with a selection of The Beach Boys' hits.  Brenda was off work on that day anyway, and I was due for some vacation time. It would be a date: a day at the Fair.

Pet Sounds is pop music's greatest contradiction: fragile but indestructible, delicate but strong, frail but immortal. Gossamer and granite. It is a wisp of emotion, heartbreak, love, and hope, a precarious house of cards that will still stand long after we're all dust. It is pop, and it is art, but it is not pop art. It is mature, and it as giddy as a teenager in love with the unattainable. The opportunity to witness a live performance of Brian Wilson's masterwork was welcome and irresistible.

I guess I just wasn't made for these times. In high school, a girl I knew (and considered rather cute) wrote in my yearbook, "Carl, you've got to be the most happy-go-lucky person I've ever met!" I could only stare at what she'd written, and say to myself, That's not me. I have always been a square peg, and that doesn't seem likely to ever change. Some days, I'm okay with that; on other days, my freak flag flies at half-mast.

August 29th was one of those days. I hadn't slept well; by morning, my emotions had plummeted into an unpleasant morass of unease and hapless futility. Nothing could nurture a delusion of adequacy. I wasn't good enough. I knew I wasn't good enough. No amount of hard evidence could convince me otherwise. Nothing felt right. Nothing was right. Yeah. That kind of day. I know there's an answer. Seeking higher ground, Brenda and I headed toward the great New York State Fair.

Of course, we listened to Pet Sounds on the drive from the Northern suburbs into Syracuse. The intricate, precious magic of pop music's masterpiece enveloped us, blanketed us. Comforted us? No, I wasn't quite there yet. But I could feel the music's gentle caress, and its unspoken (but devastating) reminder that other folks have troubles, too. And the music still loves us, I heard from somewhere within. The music loves us anyway.

Partial salvation came first via The Kinks. I'd worn my Kinks T-shirt, which is my favorite T-shirt because a) people always notice it and appreciate it, and b) it's The Kinks! Upon entering the Fair, the gatekeeper asked me the name of my favorite Kinks song. I could never pick just one, and settled on my usual dual answer of "You Really Got Me" and "Waterloo Sunset." He nodded in acknowledgement, and offered "Celluloid Heroes" as his choice. We all agreed there aren't a lot of bad choices in The Kinks' catalog, and Brenda and I walked onto the fairgrounds.

At Chevy Court, the afternoon show had already begun: Herman's Hermits, starring Peter Noone. I love '60s music, but I don't generally like oldies acts. The difference is in presentation: The Monkees, The Rolling Stones, and Paul McCartney (for example) aren't oldies acts in my mind, even though their live sets are dominated by older material, simply because each presents its cavalcade o' hits as a matter of fact--This is the show, let's GO!!--rather than mealy-mouthing about taking us back to yesteryear. An oldies act is laid-back and inoffensive; a rock 'n' roll act is confident in its material and self-assured, even aggressive in its approach. I love rock 'n' roll acts, and can usually do without oldies acts.

But Herman's Hermits put on a fun, fun show. Peter Noone is a consummate showman, an unrepentant pop idol who embraces his role as cute 'n' cuddly 'Erman--and you can call 'im 'Erm, if you like. Noone pays lip-service to the conventions of an oldies act, but does so with a wink and a playful smirk, letting everyone know he's in on the joke, and we're in on it, too. Herman's Hermits played the hits, including a couple of hits that weren't theirs--The Monkees' "Daydream Believer" and Freddie & the Dreamers' "I'm Telling You Now"--and it was all so cheerily and winningly executed that even a curmudgeon like me had to enjoy it.

(As an added bonus, when Peter Noone addressed his guitarist as "Vance," I realized it was Vance Brescia, formerly of a fab New York garage-pop group called The Mosquitos, and the author of The Monkees' 1986 Top 20 hit "That Was Then, This Is Now." Kinda wish the Hermits had performed that song rather than "Daydream Believer," but the latter song is undeniably the bigger crowd-pleaser.)

Brenda and I still had several hours to kill before Brian Wilson's show that evening. My mood had improved slightly (albeit only slightly). Let's go away for awhile. We moved on to lunch from Las Delicias, and explored the midway for a bit. As one who grew up in the Syracuse area, the State Fair was an annual tradition for me, riding all the rides, playing all the games, and eating all the junk food the Fair had to offer. Brenda was born in Brooklyn, but has become a de facto Central New Yorker, and she's certainly a veteran Fairgoer by now. We've seen so many shows here: The Beach Boys (with Carl Wilson), Tina Turner, Ray Charles, The Everly Brothers, Bo Diddley, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Gene Pitney, Don McLean, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, The Four Tops, Alex Chilton, and more. We brought our daughter Meghan here to see a Radio Disney concert, an American Idol show, Little Big Town, and Lady Antebellum; Brenda and Meghan also saw Sugarland at the Fair. Just as I did when I was a kid, Meghan delighted in the midway, and the rides, and the 25-cent chocolate milk, and the entirety of the New York State Fair experience.

Meghan's a senior in college now. She still loves the Fair, but family trips to the fair are now just fondly-remembered echoes of a time gone by, a nostalgic pang, no more a part of the here and now than a Deep Purple cassette tape or Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots. Where is the girl I used to know? Still, this was not the cause of my melancholy. Brenda and I walked the midway, our hands touching occasionally. The touch was a comfort. Love and mercy.

By 4:00--still four hours before show time--we'd grown tired and decided to go back to Chevy Court and find a seat. Many seats had already been taken; a lot of intrepid pop souls had staked out space for the Herman's Hermits show, and maintained that space for what was certain to be a packed concert area before too long. Brenda and I found our own spot, and took turns over the next few hours making food and bathroom runs.

Four hours is a long time to sit, waiting. But the weather was pleasant, and we saw so many people we knew, all there for the common purpose of communion. The time passed. I grew...not more comfortable, per se, but less uncomfortable. Again, Brenda's hand touched mine. The warmth of the sun. It was 8:00. The Brian Wilson Band took the stage.

Years ago, singer-songwriter Gary Frenay asked me, "Did you ever think Brian Wilson would be the last Wilson standing?" The story of Brian Wilson's emotional turmoil and trauma has been everyday legend for decades: the tale of this boy genius, this dumb angel, his mind frayed and tattered from abuse, drugs, and inner demons, withdrawing from the spotlight, retreating to his sandbox, lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did; a nervous breakdown, leading him to leave The Beach Boys' touring group in 1964, and retreat to the studio to reproduce the unique celestial sounds in his head; "In My Room;" Pet Sounds; a "pocket symphony" called "Good Vibrations;" and another potential masterpiece, a "teenage symphony to God" called SMiLE, left unfinished, abandoned, as Wilson's world closed in and shut down. Brian Wilson was pop music's saddest living casualty.

Yet somehow, he survived. His younger brother Dennis Wilson drowned in 1982, and the youngest of the three brothers, Carl, succumbed to cancer in 1998. Like a surfer-boy Harry Potter, Brian became The Wilson Who Lived. His voice was ravaged by time and torture, his demeanor a reflection of one who'd spent a season--several seasons--in Hell, but Brian Wilson returned to the spotlight nonetheless. He toured, playing with an incredible band that could recreate his perfect sound live. He completed SMiLE, and he saw that it was good. He did a well-received reunion album and tour with the other surviving members of The Beach Boys. And, commemorating five decades since the release of his enduring masterpiece, Brian Wilson embarked upon a 2016 tour billed as his final performances of the complete Pet Sounds. I'm waiting for the day. The day, and the time, had finally arrived.

The Brian Wilson Band opened their show with hits-hits-hits:  the live sound of "California Girls,""I Get Around,""Shut Down," and "Little Deuce Coupe" filled the jammed-beyond-jammed Chevy Court as if it were a Hawthorne beach in 1964. Wilson's band also includes former Beach Boy Al Jardine, who is still a terrific performer, and whose presence adds even more gravitas to the proceedings; the band, including members of The Wondermints and my Facebook pal Nelson Bragg, is as magnificent as advertised, but their secret weapon is Al's son Matt Jardine, whose soaring vocals did whatever heavy lifting Brian Wilson needed done. Blondie Chaplin bounded on stage to join in for searing renditions of "Wild Honey" and "Sail On, Sailor." Brian was in the center of it, but oddly apart, disconnected. One suspects the days of Brian Wilson actively engaging in a live performance are long, long gone.

But still, he was there: a (presumably) benevolent spirit holding court over a display of some of the beautiful things he created.  His voice creaked, almost croaked...but it too was still there, no longer the impossibly sweet trill of saints above, but weathered, earthy, earthly. Barely there, perhaps--but there.

As the show moved into Pet Sounds, Wilson seemed nonplussed by the very reason we had gathered before him. "We'll get back to rock 'n' roll in a bit," he apologized, "we're gonna do Pet Sounds now." He apologized again a couple of times during the performance of Pet Sounds. Did he really think we just wanted to hear songs about hot rods and surfin'? Was he really afraid we'd tap our feet and look impatiently at our watches throughout a performance of Pet Sounds, anxious for him to get that stuff over with awready and get back to the beach? Could he really think we were an audience comprised of 20,000 Mike Loves?!

I was struck by a notion: is it possible that Brian Wilson himself doesn't realize that Pet Sounds is a pretty big deal?

Unthinkable. How can an artist be so far removed from his own brilliant work that he doesn't even appreciate it?

On this day, as my own doubts and recriminations had tethered my sense of worth to the bottom of the ocean, the irony of me questioning Brian Wilson's self-confidence made me feel both stupid and liberated. I'm no Brian Wilson--I'm not even Mr. Wilson from Dennis The Menace--but there's something good inside me. Something clever. Something engaging. Something worthwhile. I know it. I forget it sometimes. But I know it.

The music of Pet Sounds played. The shackles holding my soul began to fall away.

Wouldn't It Be Nice. You Still Believe In Me. That's Not Me. Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder). I'm Waiting For The Day. Let's Go Away For Awhile. The pacing was thrown off by Wilson's insistence on introducing each song individually (and by his apologies for not rockin' out). But the band was brilliant, translating Wilson's original transcendent work into live music, augmenting Wilson's now-mortal voice with tasteful care, but still letting Wilson be heard, as he is now. Our cherished works of genius can survive and thrive, even in our flawed, impermanent hands.

As "Sloop John B" swelled with its doomed, seafaring tale of woe, I felt the sting in my eye begin its journey; as "Sloop John B" gave way to the majesty of "God Only Knows"--perhaps the most beautiful song that has ever graced our human experience--the sting gave birth to those few stray tears yearning to breathe free: tears of gratitude, tears of joy, tears of appreciation for this chance to feel the music and its power. I held Brenda's hand more tightly, and told her once again that I love her. The cloud was gone.

I Know There's An Answer. Here Today. I Just Wasn't Made For These Times. Pet Sounds. Caroline, No. The performance of Pet Sounds concluded, leaving Brian Wilson free to get back to the uptempo hits. And those hits are indeed wonderful: "Good Vibrations," "Help Me Rhonda," "Barbara Ann," "Surfin' U.S.A.," and "Fun Fun Fun" are great pop songs that should be played again and again, for as long as there are pop songs. But Pet Sounds is special, sublime; hearing it performed, as a whole, was as moving and vital as a concert sensation can be. You still believe in me. Clutching Brenda's hand, my arm around her shoulders, we exited the Fairgrounds and made our way home.

I've often said there are only three things in this world that ever really bother me: the past, the present, and the future. There are long, fulfilling moments of respite--moments of love, family, friendship, art, music, camaraderie, and creation--but the road behind us, the road ahead of us, and the small patch of ground upon which we stand in the moment, all contain perils that can strike at any time from any direction. We carry with us that determination that we can outrace our shadows, we can navigate this uneven path, and we can face whatever the hell that big, gray thing is around the next corner. Love is here today. Maybe it doesn't have to be gone tomorrow. Maybe we can be made for these times.

Wouldn't it be nice?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

SONGWRITING 000: Easy To Say (I try to write a love song)

Songwriting 000 collects some of my sporadic attempts to write pop song lyrics. This ain't an easy task when you have less musical acumen than, say, Spiro Agnew, but we do what we can. I figure I need to get good (or at least passable) at this someday, if only so I can use the name Carlgems Records as my publishing company. (Why Songwriting 000? Let's face it: these don't rise to the level of Songwriting 101....)




This is a pop love song I started writing in college, and returned to finish recently. It's about a guy who meets a girl, and struggles with what to say to her without moving too fast: the words of a lover trying not to commit too much, trying to avoid misleading the girl, trying not to break her heart, because love is so easy to say.  And then he falls for her anyway, the big lug! Just needs a power pop melody, harmonies, and some Rickenbacker (and tambourines!) to complete it. Apply heart to sleeve...now!

EASY TO SAY
Lyrics by Carl Cafarelli

I remember the first time we kissed
A hint of a promise I couldn't resist
I never suspected how much I had missed
Our story begins with a kiss

Every film we see, every TV show
Every song that plays on the radio
Weaves a tapestry of pure fantasy
A fairy tale, as we ought to know

Maybe love can be real
But I'm not trying to steal
Any part of your heart
To play any tricks, or make a big deal

We can be much wiser
We don't have to surrender to each other's charms
Wouldn't it be nicer
To just see what will happen in each other's arms?

But then

Our eyes meet
Our lips repeat
The words of some song we heard long, long ago
Our hearts pray
Our minds can stay
Strong enough to save us from just letting go

'Cause it's so easy to say love will last forever
It's so easy to say all you need is love
But the feeling is right
And you're with me tonight
And love is so easy to say

I get this feeling that we should wait
Why rush when it's better to hesitate?
Let's skip the lies that "True Love" supplies
And investigate before we say that it's fate

But you look so pretty tonight
I have to wonder what's wrong with me
Maybe love songs have it right
You can't ever win unless you're willing to fight

It's so easy!

Is it a trick of the light
Or the heat of the night?
You've chased away all of my sorrow
And in the light of the day
I'll still want you to stay
Oh, will you still love me tomorrow?

And so

As lips meet
A kiss so sweet
Our minds recognize what hearts already know
Because as of today
It's so easy to say
All doubts melt away in a lover's glow

And it's so easy to say love will last forever
It's so easy to say all you need is love
This feeling is right
You're with me tonight
And love is so easy to say

Maybe love isn't easy
But loving you is easy
And it's easy to say you belong with me

I remember the first time we kissed
And the tenth time, and the hundredth, and each kiss on my list
Kiss me again, I could never resist
A story lives on with each kiss

It's so easy
It's so easy
It's so easy to say, my love



Monday, September 26, 2016

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio # 842




This week's extravaganza served up a new 45 from the ever-fab Frodis Records label: a limited edition single by our friends, The Bradburys! We played both sides, because you can do that when you have your own radio show. We also offered the long-overdue TIRnRR debut of Dressy Bessy, and let our rampagin' whims guide us through yet another unerring example of The Best Three Hours Of Radio On The Whole Friggin' Planet!

Think you could do as well? Well, you have the opportunity to prove it with our WHO NEEDS DANA & CARL? fundraising gimmick! Intrepid philanthropists who donate $100 or more to Spark Syracuse qualify to program all the music for one future episode of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio. Furthermore, all Guest Programmers who send in their Franklins before October 22nd will be entered into a drawing to program an additional show: the randomly-selected winner also gets to program This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio # 850. Hey, we're givin' away the rights to one of our milestones! Don't let us down; give today at http://sparksyracuse.org/support/, and start tweakin'! And this is what rock 'n' roll radio sounded like on a Sunday night in Syracuse this week.

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl streams live every Sunday night from 9 to Midnight Eastern, exclusively at www.westcottradio.org

And get your copy of The Bradburys great new single on Frodis Records: http://www.frodisrecords.com/the-bradburys--marilyn-45.html

TIRnRR # 842: 9/25/16

THE RAMONES: Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio? (Rhino, End Of The Century)
--
THE BRADBURYS: Hello Hello (Frodis, single)
TROLLEY: The Kids All Sing (Easter, Caught In The Darkness)
T. REX: 20th Century Boy (Crimson, The Very Best Of T. Rex)
THE MONKEES; Me & Magdalena [Version 2] (Rhino, Good Times! [digital version])
CHICAGO: Feelin' Stronger Every Day (Rhino, Greatest Hits)
TODD RUNDGREN: I Saw The Light (Rhino, Something/Anything?)
--
DRESSY BESSY: Just Once More (Kindercore, Dressy Bessy)
PUFFY AMIYUMI: Love So Pure (Epic, Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi)
THE SMITHEREENS: Strangers When We Meet (Enigma, Especially For You)
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: I'll Be Your Mirror [live] (Polydor, Peel Slowly And See)
THE SOUL CLAN: That's How It Feels (Rhino, VA: Beg, Scream And Shout!)
AL GREEN: I Want To Hold Your Hand (The Right Stuff, Green Is Blues)
--
KEN SHARP: Let's Be Friends (616406, New Mourning)
THE BEACH BOYS: Darlin' (Capitol, Good Vibrations)
LYRES: Love Me Till The Sun Shines (Matador, On Fyre)
THE ROLLING STONES: She's A Rainbow (Abkco, Their Satanic Majesties Request)
PRINCE: I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man (Warner Brothers, The Hits/The B-Sides)
THE BANGLES: Going Down To Liverpool (Columbia, All Over The Place)
--
GARY FRENAY: Moonraker (n/a, VA: Songs. Bond Songs)
THE HOLLIES: The Air That I Breathe (Epic, Epic Anthology)
REDD KROSS: Annie's Gone (Atlantic, Third Eye)
BIG STAR: Thirteen (Ardent, # 1 Record/Radio City)
GENE SIMMONS: See You Tonite (Mercury, KISS: Gene Simmons)
THE FACES: Glad And Sorry (Warner Brothers, Ooh La La)
--
MAD MONSTER PARTY: Can't Stop Loving You (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 3)
COURTNEY BARNETT: Aqua Profunda! (Mom + Pop, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit)
THE KINKS: The Village Green Preservation Society (Universal, The Village Green Preservation Society)
THE SPECIALS: Ghost Town (Chrysalis, The Singles)
COCKTAIL SLIPPERS: St. Valentine's Day Massacre (Wicked Cool, Saint Valentine's Day Massacre)
THE ZOMBIES: Time Of The Season (Big Beat, Zombie Heaven)
--
THE BRADBURYS: Marilyn (Frodis, single)
THE CHARMS: Top Down (Red Car, Charmed, I'm Sure)
THE GO-GO'S: The Whole World Lost Its Head (IRS, Return To The Valley Of The Go-Go's)
THE GROOVIE GHOULIES: Carly Simon (Lookout!, VA: Lookout! Freakout!)
FLEETWOOD MAC: Second Hand News (Warner Brothers, Rumours)
SUGAR: If I Can't Change Your Mind (Rykodisc, Copper Blue)
--
ROBB BENSON: The Tree Mind (Roam, The Tree Mind)
COCKEYED GHOST: I Hate Rock 'n' Roll (Big Deal, The Scapegoat Factory)
THE CHARADES: Who Wanna Dance Now (Pop Madrid, When Shining Blue)
AMY RIGBY: Dancing With Joey Ramone (Signature Sounds, Little Fugitive)
THE RAMONES: Oh Oh I Love Her So (Rhino, Leave Home)
WRECKLESS ERIC & AMY RIGBY: Do You Remember That (Southern Domestic, A Working Museum)
--
THE TOYS: May My Heart Be Cast Into Stone (Sundazed, A Lover's Concerto/Attack!)
SHAUN CASSIDY: Hey Deanie (Curb, Greatest Hits)
THE EVERLY BROTHERS: Since You Broke My Heart (Varese Sarabande, The Complete Cadence Recordings 1957-1960)
THE CRICKLE: Place In My Heart (ROIR, VA: Garage Sale)
THE ANDERSON COUNCIL: Girl On The Northern Line (Jem, Assorted Colours)
NICK LOWE: Cruel To Be Kind (Yep Roc, Quiet Please...)
THE GRIP WEEDS: Every Minute (Rainbow Quartz, The Sound Is In You)
THE SINGLES: He Can Go, You Can't Stay (Rainbow Quartz, Better Than Before)
PERCY FAITH & HIS ORCHESTRA: Little Bells And Big Bells (Columbia, Passport To Romance)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Tonight on THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO!

The Ramones approve of tonight's choices!
Once again, the ol' CD case is packed with delight and wonder, including a new 45 single release from our pals The Bradburys, and the TIRnRR debut of Dressy Bessy! We'll also spin a track from a certain Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame act that we have played before, but not very often. The rest? To be decided in progress! Each week is a new set of possibilities, a unique alchemy that results in The Best Three Hours Of Radio On The Whole Friggin' Planet! Witness our combustible results Sunday night, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Percy Faith?



Last night, I dreamed of Percy Faith. See, this is what happens when I don't drink.

Percy Faith was one of the leading lights (like Enoch Light) of orchestral easy-listening music. This stuff--which earned the dismissive sobriquet "elevator music"-- was ubiquitous when I was growing up in the '60s and '70s. It wasn't heard only in elevators and dentists' offices; it was everywhere. Easy-listening radio stations thrived, meeting the needs of a mostly older clientele, repelled by the loud twangin' and thumpin' heard on Top 40 and rock 'n' roll radio.

Easy listening has never been cool, although I guess it's acquired some kind of vague retro-cool cachet over the years. I don't think it ever bothered me all that much; it wasn't The Beatles or The Isley Brothers, but it was still music, and pop music at that. Mind you, I would protest whenever circumstances (i.e., parents) meant I had to listen to WEZG (one of Syracuse's wallpaper-music radio stations in the '70s),  but I protested anything I had to do. I haven't exactly mellowed over the years, but I do recognize the appeal.

And Percy Faith? When I was little--maybe five or six years old--I often rifled through Mom and Dad's LP collection and played all sortsa things--Broadway cast albums, movie soundtracks, maybe even some swing and Chet Atkins--for my own proto-Boppin' amusement. That array o' LPs certainly included some easy-listening options; I remember the cover image of Castles In Spain by Michel Lagrande, and I remember Passport To Romance by Percy Faith And His Orchestra.

I remember the album cover, but not the music. Pretty sure the guy on the left was in The Three Stooges.


Even as a kid, circa '65 or '66, I loved records, and I loved to play records. West Side Story. "No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach's In)" by The T-Bones. Carnival. "The Night They Invented Champagne." And Percy Faith.

There was just one Percy Faith song for me, really: "Little Bells And Big Bells," which (I think) opened Side Two of Passport To Romance. I used to play that one with great frequency, prompting a Faith-based process of a-dancin' and a-struttin' around our living room with dedicated glee, long before I discovered punk or power pop. It may be incongruous, and it may border on the periphery of WTF; but that's a cherished memory, and it's worth holding as dear.




I don't listen to this music much now, hardly at all. But I recognize its occasional merit. An outfit called The Nutley Brass released a brilliant collection of Ramones songs done elevator-style, and it's freaking brilliant, empirical evidence that The Ramones wrote great pop songs that can withstand interpretation in different, unexpected styles (coincidentally, I just heard Shebang's '90s girl-pop cover of "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" playing on my iPod during this morning's commute). My friend Mike Adams plays some of this genre on his radio show, The Night Owl Lounge, Sundays nights at 10:00 on Syracuse's WVOA-FM. And I bought the mp3 of Percy Faith's "Little Bells And Big Bells" from iTunes several years ago. I am large; I contain multitudes.

Furthermore, I still have Mom and Dad's original, well-weathered LP of Passport To Romance. I only remember "Little Bells And Big Bells." Maybe I should play the album some time; for all I know, it's the easy-listening equivalent of Pet Sounds, Rocket To Russia, and Drop Out With The Barracudas, all rolled into one elevator-safe package. But the question remains: why did I dream about Percy Faith? And why was The Patti Smith Group there, too? Clearly, I'm not drinking enough.

Because the night belongs to "Little Bells."

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Monkees: Michael Nesmith's farewell



It's been a week since Michael Nesmith joined Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork on stage at The Pantages in Los Angeles for a show that was presumed to be Nesmith's final live appearance as a member of The Monkees. I've been listening to an audience recording of that show, and it looks like Papa Nez did indeed go out on a high note.

I don't currently have any great insight to add to the volume of stuff I've already written about The Monkees, but I was struck by the near-perfect list of songs chosen for the last Micky, Peter, and Michael show. For those who don't frequent Monkees Live Almanac with the insane frequency I do, I want to share those set lists here:

FIRST SET:

Last Train To Clarksville
Papa Gene's Blues
Your Auntie Grizelda
Saturday's Child
She
A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You
She Makes Me Laugh
The Girl I Knew Somewhere
Sometime In The Morning
Me & Magdalena
Shades Of Gray
Randy Scouse Git
For Pete's Sake
You Bring The Summer
Listen To The Band
What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round?

SECOND SET:

Mary, Mary
Circle Sky
Porpoise Song (Theme From "Head")
Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again?
Words
Sunny Girlfriend
(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone
You Just May Be The One
You Told Me
Birth Of An Accidental Hipster
Goin' Down
D. W. Washburn
Tapioca Tundra
Daydream Believer

ENCORE:

Pleasant Valley Sunday
I'm A Believer

What a splendid summation of The Monkees' recorded legacy! The late Davy Jones is in there as well, represented by recordings of his original vocal tracks on "Daydream Believer" and "Shades Of Gray," with the band playing live. Sure. any Monkees fan could come up with a long, long list of songs we'd wish to add (from "Valleri" to "Love Is Only Sleeping" to one or another of the Missing Links tracks recorded in the '60s but unreleased until after CDs were invented). But it's tough to quibble with this list as is, and damned near impossible to top it. And four songs from The Monkees' great 2016 album Good Times! This, my friends, is a good 'n' proper send-off.

It's worth noting that The Monkees are still on tour. Even without Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork have been knockin' em down on this 50th Anniversary Monkees tour, and I wish they'd play Syracuse awready. But this September 16th show? This was special in a way no other show could be. And The Monkees lived up to that show's promise.

Just like they always have. Play, Magic Fingers!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

SONGWRITING 000: Rocket To Russia (a song I tried to write for The Ramones)

Songwriting 000 collects some of my sporadic attempts to write pop song lyrics. This ain't an easy task when you have less musical acumen than, say, Spiro Agnew, but we do what we can. I figure I need to get good (or at least passable) at this someday, if only so I can use the name Carlgems Records as my publishing company.


Started writing this in my head after my second Ramones concert (July 6th, 1979), but never wrote it down until now.

"This one's called 'Rocket To Russia.' Take it, Dee Dee!"

"1-2-3-4!"

ROCKET TO RUSSIA
lyrics by Carl Cafarelli

Workin' for the government
Decidin' how your money's spent
But the cold war's gettin' too hot

Moscow's got a bomb
And I can't be cool and calm
Soviets are takin' a shot

I spent all my money on a rocket to Russia
It crash-landed fast, and I wound up in Prussia
German girls can stalk
"Ve have vays to make you talk!"
I fell in love behind enemy lines

The President's mad
The Russkies have been had
The rocket blew up in their faces

And here in Germany
My frauleins and me
Are on the run from the Master Races

I spent all my money on a rocket to Russia
It crash-landed fast, and I wound up in Prussia
German girls can stalk
"Ve have vays to make you talk!"
I fell in love behind enemy lines

I'm a double agent, baby
You can't catch me
I'll blaze a trail past the Siegfreid Line
With my frauleins at my side
I won't ever need to hide
We'll hitch a V2 to Hollywood and Vine

HEY!

Back in the States
No one dictates
What my frauleins and I are gonna do

We keep our eyes on the skies
So there's no surprise
If Uncle Sam tries to take us out, too

I spent all my money on a rocket to Russia
It crash-landed fast, and I wound up in Prussia
German girls can stalk
"Ve have vays to make you talk!"
I fell in love behind enemy lines
I fell in love behind enemy lines
I fell in love behind enemy lines

It's great ta be back in Schenectady, and it's great to see you all here. Take it, Dee Dee!

1-2-3-4!

 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

LOST IN THE GROOVES: The Ramones' SUBTERRANEAN JUNGLE




I've written several times here about the 2001 book Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, edited by Scram magazine's Kim Cooper and David Smay. I was so, so happy to have been involved with that book, and I've been delighted to re-present my contributions here on Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do). They're all but a click away: my Bubblegum History, my Bay City Rollers piece, and my debate with Gary Pig Gold on whether or not The Monkees were ever really a bubblegum group. I've also posted my proposed Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth audio companion, and even my fake This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio playlist/appreciation of David Smay's fictional group, The Daisy Bang. When it comes to Scram, I'm a fan!

So when Kim and David asked me to contribute to their next book, I was all for it. That book was Lost In The Grooves in 2005, billed as "Scram's capricious guide to the music you missed." It was a collection of short essays about underrated, under-appreciated, or otherwise unjustly neglected albums. I think I proposed a bunch of potential albums I wanted to write about (including the [post-Bay City] Rollers' 1979 work Elevator), but was given the go-ahead for but a pair: Tell America by Fools Face, and Subterranean Jungle by The Ramones.

(I recall having to convince Kim about including a Ramones album in Lost In The Grooves. "The Ramones aren't underrated anymore, Carl," she said. "Maybe not," I replied, "but this album is!" She ceded the point, and I got to work....)

THE RAMONES
Subterranean Jungle (Sire, 1983)

The Ramones' seventh album, Subterranean Jungle is the most underrated work in their Carbona-huffin' canon. It is the only one of The Ramones' post-'70s works that fully embraces the trash-pop, bubblegum aesthetic that made the first four Ramones albums such enduring classics; yet it was the first original Ramones album to be deleted. And its follow-up, 1984's far-less-bouncy Too Tough To Die, wound up being hailed (falsely!) as The Ramones' return to greatness.

The Ramones wanted to be a bubblegum band, a faster and louder version of The Bay City Rollers and The Ohio Express. With '60s bubblegum vets Ritchie Cordell and Glen Kolotkin producing, Subterranean Jungle opens with a cover of The Music Explosion's "Little Bit O' Soul." (A fab cover of The 1910 Fruitgum Company's "Indian Giver" was also recorded, but appeared as a non-LP B-side.) A seemingly incongruous cover of The Chambers Brothers' psychedelic soul touchstone "Time Has Come Today" defies expectations and simply soars. And Dee Dee Ramone's misfit themes "Outsider" and "In The Park" (the latter song inspired--go figure!--by trips to the park to cop heroin) transcend their origins and emerge as triumphant, fist-pumpin', bubblicious delights.

It's not all bubbly. While Joey yearns for "Somebody Like Me" and "My-My Kind Of A Girl," Dee Dee's badass "Time Bomb" warns he's gonna kill his mom and dad, and Dee Dee and Johnny's "Psycho Therapy"--ultimately the album's best-known track--is an audio slasher flick, with a horror-film video banned by the weasels at MTV. Behind the scenes, Marky Ramone was fired from the band during the making of the album; the cover graphics show him clearly apart from the rest of The Ramones, looking out a subway window, a brudder-in-arms no more. This was the last great Ramones album, a bubblegum punk classic, and no one seems to appreciate it. Maybe that time has come today.

I still like Subterranean Jungle more than any other Ramones studio album released after 1978's Road To Ruin. (I specify studio album because 1979's It's Alive! is my all-time favorite live record.) I'll post my Lost In The Grooves essay on the great Fools Face album Tell America some time soon. And if the good folks at Scram ever decide to do another book, I think they know where to find me.

Oh, by the way: Lost In The Grooves is a cool little book, with or without me, and copies are still available over on the Amazon thing.  In the immortal words of Jack "King" Kirby: "Don't ask why--just BUY!"

Subterranean Jungle illustration by Tom Neely, from Lost In The Grooves

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

MY LAST CHANCE!! (Plus: A NEW wrinkle in WHO NEEDS DANA & CARL? )



Dramatic, innit? Yes, this is my last chance to grovel for your votes in The Syracuse New TimesBest Of Syracuse '16 Readers Poll. Deadline for voting is, like, now, so please consider a vote for Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) for Best Blog. You can vote once per e-mail address, and I humbly beg you to vote for me, and for my friends:

BEST BLOGBoppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do)
BEST PRESCHOOL PROGRAM: my lovely wife Brenda's school Jowonio School
BEST AFTERSCHOOL PROGRAMJowonio School
BEST RADIO PERSONALITY: Ronnie Dark
BEST ROCK GROUP: Ronnie's combo Darkroom
BEST BAND NAMEDarkroom
MOST TRUSTED LOCAL POLITICIANAl Stirpe
BEST PLACE TO BUY MUSIC: Ronnie's sponsor Music And More
BEST COMICS STOREComix Zone
BEST NOT-FOR-PROFITSpark Syracuse



Last call! I don't have a prayer, to be honest with ya, but I'm gonna go out swingin'...!

It's still far from your last chance to participate in our Who Needs Dana & Carl? fundraiser on behalf of Spark Syracuse, but let's sweeten the pot and add a little bit of soulful urgency. We already know that generous patrons o' the arts who donate $100 or more at http://sparksyracuse.org/support/ earn the opportunity to program the music for a future episode of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio. BUT THERE'S MORE! Granted, not much more--if we could afford giveaways, we wouldn't need to do a fundraiser--but still, MORE! Everyone who donates at this $100 level will also be entered into a drawing, and one lucky winner will get to program one additional, specific episode of TIRnRR.

Which episode? The winner gets to program our 850th show, in its entirety.

That's right. One of our Guest Programmers, over and above the great show he or she would slap together anyway, will also get to program our big, blowout TIRnRR # 850. Don't let us down! Every $100 donation is worth an entry in this drawing, and the winner will be selected at random next month. Everyone's who's already donated at the $100 level during this campaign will also be entered into the contest. This contest runs through October 22nd, and the winner's name will be drawn on October 23rd. Questions? Talk t'me. The original Who Needs Dana & Carl rules 'n' regs still apply...but now you get a shot at two shows for the price of one. And not just any show! You get to program 850! Let the cash flow freely!

Hey! We're about to hit a whompin', stompin', 30,000 views! Lots more to come...and it won't all be hype. I mean, look at what's developing in the near (or eventual) future on Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do):