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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.

Monday, October 31, 2016

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio # 847



Happy Halloween from This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl! No agenda this week--no plan, no path, no phone, no light, no motor car--just another casual example of The Best Three Hours Of Radio On The Whole Friggin' Planet. Don't believe our hype? Look below...and believe! 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

TIRnRR # 847: 10/30/16

THE RAMONES: Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio? (Rhino, End Of The Century)
--
BADFINGER: Baby Blue (Apple, Straight Up)
WARREN ZEVON: Werewolves Of London (Rhino, Genius)
TEGAN & SARA: Walking With A Ghost (Vapor, So Jealous)
SCREAMIN' JAY HAWKINS: I Put A Spell On You (KRB, I Put A Spell On You)
IGGY POP: I'm Bored (Virgin, A Million In Prizes)
THE ADVERTS: Gary Gilmore's Eyes (The Devil's Own Jukebox, Crossing The Red Sea)
--
GARY FRENAY: Moonraker (Curry Cuts, VA: Songs. Bond Songs)
CHRISSIE HYNDE: You Or No One (Caroline, Stockholm)
THE PRIMITIVES: Amoureaux D'une Affiche (Elefant, Echoes And Rhymes)
IAN HUNTER: England Rocks (CBS, single)
CHARLIE RICH & THE GENE LOWERY CHORUS: Lonely Weekends (Rhino, VA: The Sun Story)
SUGAR: If I Can't Change Your Mind (Rykodisc, Copper Blue)
--
THE SHAKES: Shining On You (Teenacide, The Shakes)
EAGLES OF DEATH METAL: I Only Want You (AntAcid, Peace Love Death Metal)
THE ISLEY BROTHERS: Listen To The Music (Epic, 3 + 3)
JUMPIN' GENE SIMMONS: Haunted House (Rhino, VA: Elvira Presents Haunted Hits)
STEVE STOECKEL & HIS THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO ALL-STARS: You Don't Love Me Anymore (unreleased)
THE EDGAR WINTER GROUP: Frankenstein (Epic, They Only Come Out At Night)
--
KISS: Shout It Out Loud (Mercury, Destroyer)
DAVE EDMUNDS: The Creature From The Black Lagoon (Rhino, The Dave Edmunds Anthology [1968-90])
THE KINKS: Sleepwaker (Velvel, Sleepwalker)
THE GO-GO'S: Our Lips Are Sealed (IRS, Beauty And The Beat)
THE RATTLERS: On The Beach (Ratso, single)
LOS STRAITJACKETS: "The Munsters" Theme (DGC, VA: Halloween Hootenanny)
--
THE SMITHEREENS: Strangers When We Meet (Enigma, Especially For You)
PAUL WESTERBERG: Postively 4th Street (Uncut, VA: Hard Rain)
JIM BABJAK'S BUZZED MEG: You Get Me So Excited (Tex Rem, The Music From Jim Babjak's Buzzed Meg, Part 1)
MARTHA & THE MUFFINS: Echo Beach (EMI, Far Away In Time)
DENNIS DIKEN WITH BELL SOUND: The Sun's Gonna Shine In The Morning (Cryptovision, Late Music)
SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES: Christine (Rhino, VA: Left Of The Dial)
--
MICKY DOLENZ: Chance Of A Lifetime (7a, The MGM Singles Collection)
MARSHALL CRENSHAW: Someday, Someway (Rhino, Marshall Crenshaw)
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS: Ana Ng (Rhino, Dial-A-Song)
THE ANIMALS: House Of The Rising Sun [live]
1.4.5.: Your Own World (Beautiful Sounds, Rhythm n' Booze)
JULIAN COPE: World Shut Your Mouth (Rhino, VA: Left Of The Dial)
--
THE LEGAL MATTERS: Short Term Memory (Omnivore, Conrad)
BIG STAR: Don't Worry, Baby (Omnivore, Complete Third)
PACIFIC SOUL LTD.: We Go High (Karma Frog, The Dance Divine)
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: Sunday Morning (Polydor, Peel Slowly And See)
MIMI BETINIS: Pontiac (Mimi-Tone, Music Sounds)
THE STILLS-YOUNG BAND: Long May You Run (Reprise, Long May You Run)
--
ALICE COOPER: Hello Hooray (Rhino, Mascara & Monsters)
RAINBOW: Long Live Rock 'n' Roll (Polydor, The Very Best Of Rainbow)
THE RAMONES: Howling At The Moon (Sha-La-La) [live] (Rhino, Loud, Fast, Ramones)
TALKING HEADS: Psycho Killer (Sire, Talking Heads '77)
THE LOLLIPOP SHOPPE: You Must Be A Witch (Rhino, VA: Nuggets)
THE SONICS: Psycho (Rhino, VA: Nuggets)
THE FLESHTONES: Return To The Haunted House [live] (Raven, It's Super Rock Time!)
MAX FROST & THE TROOPERS: Shape Of Things To Come (Rhino, VA: Nuggets)
ROKY ERICKSON & THE ALIENS: I Walked With A Zombie (Restless, The Evil One)
THE STANDELLS: Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White (Rhino, VA: Nuggets)
BARON DAEMON & THE VAMPIRES: The Transylvania Twist (WNYS, single)
THE AMBOY DUKES: Journey To The Center Of The Mind (Rhino, VA: Nuggets)
THE SHADOWS: The Frightened City (Scamp, Shadows Are Go!)



Sunday, October 30, 2016

Tonight on THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO

It's our 847th show! While this may not be a specific milestone, EVERY week is a celebration on TIRnRR. Tune in to discover how our seemingly mundane proceedings magically become The Best Three Hours Of Radio On The Whole Friggin' Planet! Trust us--we're DJs. Sunday night, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org

Saturday, October 29, 2016

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'"

An infinite number of rockin' pop records can be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns.  Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!




CRAZY ELEPHANT: "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'"

A band doesn't have to actually exist to be great. The enduring appeal of pop music is based not on authenticity, but on results. If you love a record, you're not concerned if it was born of the divine inspiration of a brilliant singer-songwriter, bashed out in a basement by teenaged tyros, or created in a lab by Dr, Frankenstein; you just wanna turn it up, and you just wanna dance to it.

Crazy Elephant did not exist. Its members didn't meet at art school; they didn't poach a drummer from a rival band, the bass player didn't quit to found a new religion, and their manager wasn't fired and replaced by the lead singer's hot new girlfriend. They didn't listen to the WMCA Good Guys, nor Radio Caroline, nor Chickenman. They didn't do drugs. They didn't eat. They didn't breathe. Record label hype claimed that Crazy Elephant was a group of former Welsh coal miners who'd ditched the shaft in favor of the limelight; that, of course, was pure bologna, without even the benefit of a first name or a second name.

Granted, there were indeed real people involved in crafting the Crazy Elephant sound in the studio. (And it was kinda cool to discover that Wikipedia uses me as one of the references on its Crazy Elephant page.) "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'" was written by bubblevets Joey Levine and Ritchie Cordell; the record was produced by Levine with Artie Resnick. The lead singer was Robert Spencer, who had previously hit big as a member of The Cadillacs with the # 17 smash "Speedo" in 1955. A subsequent Crazy Elephant record, "There Ain't No Umbopo," would feature lead vocals by Kevin Godley, who later found fame with 10cc and Godley and Creme. All fiction, no matter how outlandish, has roots in the real world.

And do you really care about any of that?

Well, maybe you do care. As a de facto pop historian, I'm always eager to learn more about the stories behind the music, about the people who made the magic we believe in. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way. But when we listen to a record, is its back story foremost in our minds? When we hear "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'" on the radio, is our first thought Hey, that's the guy who wrote and sang "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy" whoopin' it up with the "Haw-Haws!", or do we prefer to just listen to the record, and whoop along ourselves?

We prefer the latter. "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'" is an AM radio explosion of soulful lead vocals, bubblegum rhythm, proto-punk swagger, and sheer, self-assured, rock 'n' roll oomph. It can be performed by a folk singer with an acoustic guitar, a garage band playing its first (or zillionth) gig, a rap group, a metal group, or a reggae group, and it can work in each these contexts. But no one--no one--will ever surpass or equal the original recording, performed by a band that never existed. From nothing, something: The Greatest Record Ever Made.




Friday, October 28, 2016

Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) # 300

 
 




300 of these things...?! Man, you'd think I woulda quit as soon as I found out there was no money involved.

But doing this daily blog has been a blast anna half. It's been gratifying to meet the responsibility of posting at least one blog entry a day, every day, with the view that it's an iron-clad commitment. It doesn't matter that the audience is small; whoever shows up each day gets to see the show, whatever the show is. If I don't have anything old ready to use, then I have to write something new. No excuses. It has been great, great fun to get back into writing again, and I'm grateful to all of you who check in with whatever the hell it is I think I'm doing here.

As we look ahead to Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) # 301 and beyond, I want to also look back at some of the things I've written in the first 299 entries. Excluding older material that I've dusted off as Encore Presentations, these are some of my favorites on the blog this year. This list only includes pieces I wrote in 2016 (and all but "The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze" were written from scratch):

David Bowie [Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) # 1]

ETERNITY MAN! A rock 'n' roll superhero novel, chapters 1 through 5

Singers, Superheroes, And Songs On The Radio: My Life In Pop Culture, The 1960s

The Monkees Bring The Summer: A Girl I Knew Somewhere

The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze [starring THE BATMAN and AQUAMAN]

The Monkees: GOOD TIMES! review

On Broadway

Tom Kenny, My Daughter, And Me

Something's Really Wrong

The Story of BRIGHT LIGHTS! 2016

SHAZAM! My Secret Origin As A Captain Marvel Fan

The Monkees: Welcome To The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

Brian Wilson and PET SOUNDS

Archie Meets Ramones

Elvis Costello & the Attractions

Writing requires a certain level of self-confidence, a quality that I can't claim to always possess outside of my writing. But the writing itself? I'm proud of it. Many of the things I've written this year can stand with the best I've ever written. I've always had confidence in the writing, and that's why I keep doing it every day.

So, what do we have coming up? Well, that can sometimes be tough to say with certainty. To tell you the truth, it's not uncommon for me to finish the next day's post right before I go to bed at night; Wednesday's post about Adventure Comics was written that morning. But I always have a number of posts in various stages of being, from embryonic to almost-ready. For example:

Yesterday saw the debut of a new series, The Greatest Record Ever Made; the subject was suggested by intrepid Boppin' fan Dave Murray, based on my familiar riff that an infinite number of records can be the single greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. It's a fun subject for me, so expect more GREMs in the future.

The Everlasting First, my alphabetical series looking back at my introductions to various musical acts and comics characters, will resume soon with the letter J (for The Jam and Jimmy Olsen).

The long-promised Singers, Superheroes, And Songs On The Radio, my de facto autobiography of reading comic books and listening to pop music while in the theoretical act of growing up, will also resume some time...well, pretty soon. These are very time-consuming to write, but I hope to get myself back to where we left off--September 1970--within the next few weeks or so. I've also hinted at a new series called Spain, but I still haven't decided about that one yet.

Comic Book Retroviews will also continue, with potential subjects including Atlas Comics, Vampirella, DC 100-Page Super-Spectacular, Avengers King-Size Special # 2, The Adventures Of Jerry Lewis, The Brave And The Bold, and Detective Comics # 439, as whim dictates. The Notebook Notions will probably return, with a tale about my teenaged plan to create a publishing empire combining superheroes and naked female models, provided I can stop blushing long enough to actually write the damned thing.

And, although I don't specifically have any more Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery concert memories planned, I was so pleased with the three I've already done that I can practically guarantee a return to that series. I can likely rule out wanting to write about seeing Regis Philbin live.

But all of this will be determined as I go, with no editor or outside mandate, writing about whatever I feel, and hoping an audience is out there somewhere. The only permanent fixtures here are Sunday hype for that week's episode of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl, followed (usually on Monday) by the weekly TIRnRR playlist and commentary. What else? Check back every day, and find out. Thank you for making Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) a part of your own ongoing effort to waste time on the internet. Bop on, my friends.

 













Thursday, October 27, 2016

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: "Baby Blue"

An infinite number of rockin' pop records can be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!



Badfinger: "Baby Blue"

These guys sound like The Beatles!

When I was a teenager, AM radio was both a tether to the real world and a pipeline to an imagined (if not quite imaginary) world of awe and wonder. In Syracuse, in the early- to mid-'70s, WOLF and WNDR supplied the hooks and the hype, the very foundation of my formative rock 'n' roll dreams. Every new song was a potential revelation. Every new record was a new possibility.

My daughter tells me how much this has changed; she loves music as much as I do, but radio has become irrelevant. It's still on in the car sometimes, when the iPod's not available, but it's background noise, a gray haze of commercials and forgettable music, punctuated occasionally (if at all) by something decent to listen to, briefly. Neither she nor her friends ever listen to radio at home; why would they? There's nothing for them. There's nothing for me. I can rarely tolerate listening to any commercial radio station for long, and it's not the commercials that drive me away. It's the music.

These guys sound like The Beatles!

I don't remember which local DJ used that line, but I know I heard him use it at least twice. The second time, a couple of years later, he used it to describe The Raspberries, and I'm sure we'll be discussing that in a future post here. To me, as a popsmacked young teen whose all-time favorite film was A Hard Day's Night, there could be no higher praise. The radio knew what I wanted. And the first time the radio promised me a new band that sounded like The Beatles, the radio gave me a revelation. The radio gave me Badfinger.

I'm not sure which Badfinger hit inspired such fab praise. I know it wasn't Badfinger's first hit "Come And Get It," a little ditty written by Beatle Paul; it could have been "No Matter What," or "Day After Day," both of which ruled my AM radio world with absolute, unquestioned authority. But it could also have been my favorite of favorites, The Greatest Record Ever Made: "Baby Blue."

As noted above, the concept of The Greatest Record Ever Made maintains that an infinite number of records can be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. But it's not--it is never--faint praise. For a record to take its turn as The Greatest Record Ever Made, you have to believe it really is the best thing you've ever heard, or could ever hear, for the full three minutes and thirty seconds (or whatever) that it plays. In that moment, there is no other song. Objectivity can return to you later, after the record's over, or you can effectively delay objectivity by just playing the damned record again. Screw objectivity--this is pop music! And what's objectivity ever done for you, anyway?

"Baby Blue" qualifies. For 3:36 or thereabouts, "Baby Blue" takes everything that's ever been great about rockin' pop music and amplifies it and compresses it all into a sheer, harmony-laden, irresistible force.  There has never been a better single. There are others that can compete, in their own turn, but nothing--nothing--has ever topped it. It sounds like The Beatles. No, it's better than The Beatles. Even as a twelve-year-old kid in 1972, certain to my innermost core that The Beatles were the sine qua non of pop music, I think I still knew in my heart: "Baby Blue" was even greater. Each time I hear it, I still believe that's true.

Badfinger's real life story is one of the most tragic tales in rock 'n' roll's often tear-stained annals. But the music transcends its origin, rises above the show-biz treachery and human frailty that claimed the group itself. "Baby Blue" is the embodiment of why I fell in love with the radio in the first place, and an enduring testimony to why I still love radio's potential, in spite of all efforts to make me give up on that love. Radio gave me Badfinger. I can never repay that debt.

Because these guys? They sounded like The Beatles. And I guess that's all I have to say.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

COMIC BOOK RETROVIEW: Joe Orlando's ADVENTURE COMICS, Part 2

Continuing a look back at the Joe Orlando-edited Adventure Comics in the early '70s. Part One is here.



The Spectre had been one of my (many) favorite characters for years. Originally created in the '40s (by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and artist Bernard Baily) as a near-omnipotent ghostly force of vengeance, I discovered The Spectre when his solo title debuted in 1967. The Silver Age interpretation of The Spectre eschewed the bloodthirsty eye-for-an-eye (and then some!) retribution of the character's earliest appearances, and opted instead for cosmic adventure and thrills. It was one of my favorite comic books when I was seven or eight, but it was cancelled after ten issues. The Spectre had last been seen in Justice League Of America # 83 in 1970, as the Astral Avenger sacrificed his afterlife to save the multiverse.





In between the publication of JLA # 83 and The Spectre's reappearance in Adventure Comics, I had my first opportunity to read a couple of The Spectre's somewhat grislier Golden Age adventures. The 1940s Spectre stories reprinted in DC Comics 100-Page Super-Spectacular and Jules Feiffer's book The Great Comic Book Heroes showed The Spectre as a merciless, Old Testament angel of swift, deadly justice; he made lethal, shoot-first pulp heroes like The Shadow and The Spider seem almost namby-pamby by comparison. These earliest stories would be the inspiration for the new approach to The Spectre, beginning in Adventure Comics # 431 (January-February 1974):

His fellow policemen know him as Detective Jim Gordon, the toughest cop on the New York force--but Jim Corrigan is not just another tough cop. For Jim Corrigan is a dead man...a ghost...a man murdered by gangsters who has returned from beyond the grave to battle crime with powers far beyond the ken of mortal men. But you needn't tremble, gentle reader. Only the vermin of the underworld need fear...THE WRATH OF...THE SPECTRE!

Scary. And cool!

Writer Michael Fleisher, collaborating with Russell Carley for the first seven of The Spectre's appearances in Adventure, pulled out all of the stops to craft a series of chilling, over-the-top revenge fantasies in which heartless murderers met their awful (but deserving) ends. Killers were melted, reduced to skeletons, cut in half by giant scissors, turned to glass (and then shattered), and transformed into wood and run through a buzzsaw. The Spectre was nasty, almost like a comic-book precursor to the purposeful serial killer Dexter. Mercy? From The Spectre?! Oh, you naive sinner...!
This was all very graphic by the standards of a mainstream American comic book at the time, and it was just endlessly thrilling to this young teen as I bought 'em fresh off the rack from '73 to '75. Irresistible artwork by the great Jim Aparo combined with Fleisher's compelling, macabre storytelling to make Adventure Comics my favorite comic book.




Although Adventure Comics had seemed like a tryout book in search of a star, the letters columns indicated that The Spectre might become that star. Sales of The Spectre's appearances in Adventure Comics were said to be encouraging. With issue # 433, the covers unofficially amended the book's title to become Weird Adventure Comics, hoping to draw more horror comics fans to the gritty, gory pleasures of The Spectre's exploits. Editor Joe Orlando continued to search for the right back-up strips; # 431 featured the Alex Toth-drawn one-off "Is A Snerl Human?," a Captain Fear two-parter appeared in # 432-433, followed by a book-length Spectre story in Adventure Comics # 434.



Adventure Comics # 435 gave us the first Adventure back-up to matter: a revival of Aquaman, DC's King Of The Seven Seas, who was then appearing on TV in the Super Friends cartoon show. Outside of his adventures with The Justice League of America, Aquaman had been without an ongoing comic-book home since his own title had been cancelled in 1971. The 1968-1971 run of Aquaman, written by Steve Skeates and drawn by Jim Aparo, had been (and remains) one of my all-time favorite comic books. So I was delighted to see the Sea King return in Adventure; Skeates returned as scripter, but Aparo was too busy with The Spectre (and with the Batman team-up book The Brave And The Bold) to return to Atlantis, so Mike Grell became the new Aqua-artist. I remember reading Adventure Comics # 435 on a flight from Pensacola to Syracuse that summer of 1974, and thinking this was just the best time ever to be a comics fan. And Adventure Comics was one of my prime pieces of evidence in making that case.





Aquaman completed his three-issue trial run in the back of Adventure Comics, followed by the beginning of a Seven Soldiers Of Victory serial in Adventure # 438. The Spectre continued to wreak deadly havoc on evildoers, and all seemed right with Adventure Comics. And then, seemingly without warning, The Spectre was gone.



Wait. What...?!



I suspect a rat.

Were earlier reports of The Spectre's encouraging sales incorrect? Or had DC succumbed to complaints about the harrowing, grisly nature of The Spectre's cold, cruel punishment? I was delighted to see Aquaman return; I was sad to see The Spectre go.


 
 
 


The good news was that Jim Aparo was now able to return to drawing Aquaman, though Skeates was replaced (initially) by writer Paul Levitz. I continued to read and enjoy Adventure Comics (as evidenced by my letter of comment in Adventure # 444), but lost interest in it when Aquaman moved to his own title, and Superboy renewed his long-standing residency as the star of Adventure with issue # 453.

Looking back, my only regret with this era of Adventure Comics is that I wish there had been more. The title was only popular enough to merit bi-monthly status; imagine if there could have been twice as much good stuff to enjoy with a monthly Adventure. More Spectre! More other characters! And more Spectre! It would have been nice if Adventure could have also been converted to DC's 100-Page Super-Spectacular format, with these new Spectre and back-up strips bookending a choice selection of Golden Age reprints from DC's vast archives. It would have been fun. It would have been awesome! But the truth is, it was already all of that. It was Adventure. Can't ask for more than that.