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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, July 31, 2017

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio # 883



New music from Heirs Of Fortune! New music from Gary Frenay! New music from The Reed Brothers! Well, that's all we need to start buildin' a radio show. That, and the opportunity to segue Prince into The Partridge Family. This is what rock 'n' roll radio sounded like on a Sunday night in Syracuse this week.

HEY! The long-awaited compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 is almost nearly ready! Get your order in at http://shop.koolkatmusik.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=KKM&Product_Code=Various_Artists_241&Category_Code=PO

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl streams Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern at www.westcottradio.org

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

TIRnRR # 883: 7/30/17

THE RAMONES: Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio? (Rhino, End Of The Century)
--
POP CO-OP: It Ain't Easy Being A Boy (Silent Bugler, Four State Solution)
JAMIE & STEVE: In A Little Tango (Loaded Goat, Sub Textural)
POP CO-OP: You Don't Love Me Anymore (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE: Better Things (Rykodisc, VA: This Is Where I Belong)
THE KINKS: You Still Want Me (Essential, Kinks)
THE PRETENDERS: Stop Your Sobbing (Sire, Pretenders)
--
HEIRS OF FORTUNE: Shine (Kool Kat Musik, Circus Of Mirth)
THE MONKS: I'm Watching You (Third Man, Hamburg Recordings 1967)
POPDUDES: Waterloo (Not Lame, VA: International Pop Overthrow Vol. 9)
PRINCE: Computer Blue (Warner Brothers, Purple Rain)
THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY: Somebody Wants To Love You (Razor & Tie, The Partridge Family Album)
ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ATTRACTIONS: (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea (Rykodisc, This Year's Model)
--
THE SLAPBACKS: Make Something Happen (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
HINDU LOVE GODS: Raspberry Beret (Rhino, WARREN ZEVON: Genius)
CIRCE LINK: Yellow Dress (circelink.com, Enchanted Objects & Ordinary Things)
ROD STEWART: You Wear It Well (Mercury, Gold)
THE GRASS ROOTS: Midnight Confessions (Rhino, Anthology 1965-1975)
RONNIE LANE & SLIM CHANCE: Ooh La La (Universal, Ooh La La)
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THE REED BROTHERS: Left To Right (single)
THE PLIMSOULS: A Million Miles Away (Marilyn, VA: From L.A. With Love)
THE MERRY GO ROUND: Live (Varese Sarabande, EMITT RHODES: Listen, Listen)
THE BANGLES: Hero Takes A Fall (Columbia, All Over The Place)
THE SMITHEREENS: Got Me A Girl (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
THE RAMONES: Surfin' Bird (Rhino, Rocket To Russia)
--
SAMMY AMBROSE: This Diamond Ring (Ace, VA: You Heard It Here First!)
GARY FRENAY: Ambivalent Zone (n/a, VA: Safe Under The Covers)
SMOKEY ROBINSON & THE MIRACLES: The Tears Of A Clown (Motown, VA: Hitsville USA)
THE MONKEES: Sometime In The Morning (Rhino, More Of The Monkees)
IRENE PEÑA: Must've Been Good (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
THE FACES: Glad And Sorry (Warner Brothers, Ooh La La)
--
THE MONKEES: Birth Of An Accidental Hipster (Rhino, Good Times!)
BIG STAR: In The Street [single mix] (Stax, The Best Of Big Star)
THE LEGAL MATTERS: Don't Look Back (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
THE JAM: Beat Surrender (Polydor, Direction Reaction Creation)
THE MORELLS: Red's (ESD, Shake And Push)
MICHAEL NESMITH: Some Of Shelly's Blues (Rhino, Infinite Tuesday)
--
THE OHMS: License To Kill (unreleased)
SHOES: Tomorrow Night (Marilyn, VA: From L.A. With Love)
THE GRIP WEEDS: Strange Bird (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
THE SMALL FACES: Sha-La-La-La-Lee (Immediate, The Autumn Stone)
STARZ: Cherry Baby (Capitol, Violation)
XTC: This Is Pop (Geffen, Waxworks)
--
1.4.5.: Your Own World (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
TODD RUNDGREN: Couldn't I Just Tell You (Rhino, Something/Anything?)
THE ISLEY BROTHERS: Got To Have You Back (Motown, Greatest Hits And Rare Classics)
THE ZOMBIES: Time Of The Season (Big Beat, Zombie Heaven)
THE ROMANTICS: In The Nighttime (Nemperor, Strictly Personal)
DMZ: Busy Man (Marilyn, VA: From L.A. With Love)
CIRCE LINK & CHRISTIAN NESMITH: I'm On Your Side (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ATTRACTIONS: (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding? (Rykodisc, Armed Forces)
THE BEATLES: Flying (Apple, Magical Mystery Tour)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Tonight On THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO



Every Sunday, I load up my old CD case with choices. On Sunday night, I sift through those choices to slap together my half of The Best Three Hours Of Radio On The Whole Friggin' Planet, This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl. In another part of town, Dana is loading up an even bulkier mass o' choices for himself. What will we actually wind up playing? As always, you'll find out when we find out. But the choices will include new music from Heirs Of Fortune, as well as selections from This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4. You, my friend? You should choose to listen: Sunday night, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: The Slapbacks, "Make Something Happen"

This is part of a series of short pieces discussing each of the 29 tracks on our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4The CD can be ordered at Kool Kat Musik.




7. THE SLAPBACKS: "Make Something Happen"

If you engage in any aspect of creativity or even simple entertainment over a significant span of time, you will inevitably generate specific moments that you look upon with a sense of glowing inner fulfillment. And yes, that's even true of just being a DJ. I have enjoyed many such moments as the co-host of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl, but over all of this time--over the course of more than eighteen years, nearly 900 shows, four compilation CDs, thousands of songs, and tens...no, hundreds of thousands of words spoken or written--one thing stands out as the single greatest pride of my long, mutant radio career: I finally got someone to record a Flashcubes cover.

Oh, I tried before. Lord, I tried. That would be Mary Lou Lord to start. Many years ago, when Mary Lou asked Dana and me to suggest material for a covers album she was considering, I bought her a copy of The Flashcubes' Bright Lights CD, and supplemented it with a CD-R that included even more Flashcubes material. I told Seth Gordon that his group The Mockers should record 'Cubes guitarist Paul Armstrong's "A Face In The Crowd." As recently as last year, I was trying to get 'Cubes bassist Gary Frenay's sublime "Make Something Happen" to Andrew Sandoval, figuring the tune would be a natural for The Monkees to record for their incredible 2016 album Good Times! But alas...all to no avail.

"Make Something Happen" in particular always seemed to me like a big hit just waiting to...um, happen. Mary Lou Lord. The Monkees. Marshall Crenshaw. The Gin Blossoms. Somebody.  This song was made for radio. Someone needed to record it and get it out there for mass consumption. I shared the song with friends and fellow pop fans. I talked about maybe wanting to spearhead a Flashcubes tribute album (which is still a mighty fine idea). It was idle fantasy, but the idea of a Flashcubes tribute album planted one very important seed: if it ever did happen, Keith Klingensmith wanted to call dibs on "Make Something Happen."

Keith's name comes up a lot in the discussion of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio. Keith is one of TIRnRR's best friends; as a fan, as a listener, as a supporter, as a facilitator (Keith's on-line label Futureman Records curates the digital release of our TIRnRR compilations), and as a performer, Keith has been one of us from the get-go. Yet Keith had never been on a TIRnRR compilation; his musical co-hort Chris Richards was on Volume 1, but although there's always been mutual interest, the timing's never worked out for us to claim a track by any of Keith's combos, from The Phenomenal Cats to The Legal Matters. We were determined to get Keith on Volume 4.

The sequence that followed was a happy, serendipitous toppling of dominoes. Conrad, The Legal Matters' 2016 release on Omnivore Recordings, gathered deserved buzz in the pure pop world, so we wanted them represented on TIRnRR # 4. The group--Keith, Chris, and Andy Reed--didn't have any new tracks to spare, so we were gonna go with either a fresh, unique radio edit of "Short Term Memory" from Conrad or a new live-in-the-studio rendition of that song. That didn't work out. Keith suggested we use one of the cover tunes The Legal Matters had previously recorded for digital release. I countered that maybe, at long last, it was time for Keith to cash in his dibs from years ago: it was time for The Legal Matters to cover "Make Something Happen."

That also didn't work out.

Within the time restraints of compiling TIRnRR # 4, Andy Reed would simply be unable to tear himself away from other pressing commitments to record anything new before our deadline. We found another exquisite, pre-existing Legal Matters track for our compilation.

But Keith still wanted to do "Make Something Happen" nearly as much as I wanted him to do it. So he called on some other music-makin' buddies to make it so. Keith's also a member of The Slapbacks, an informal combo that exists to craft cover tunes for various projects; The Slapbacks have a terrific version of "That's What The Little Girls Do" on Not The Knack, a forthcoming 2-CD tribute to The Knack from the good folks at Zero Hour Records. Keith assembled his Slapbacks--my old bud John Borack of Popdudes and Goldmine magazine, Herb Eimerman of The Nerk Twins and The Britannicas, Torbjörn Petersson of Tor Guides, Keith himself singing lead, plus Karen Basset of The Pandoras on backing vocals--and Keith made something happen. Man, did he ever make something happen!

The result is just gorgeous, glorious.  I think everyone knows that I'm possibly the world's most insistent Flashcubes fan. The Flashcubes are my favorite power pop band, they rank with The Beatles and The Ramones in the troika of my top rock 'n' roll groups, and I've long wished they enjoyed the sort of mass notoriety and adulation I think they deserve. "Make Something Happen" was first recorded by Gary Frenay's post-Flashcubes band Screen Test in the '80s, then recorded again by the reunited 'Cubes for their 2003 album Brilliant. It's a hit record, no matter how few the number of people who've heard it. Thanks to Keith Klingensmith, and thanks to The Slapbacks, more people will get to hear it now. Proud? Yeah. Damned straight, I'm proud.

Now: someone get in touch with The Monkees.

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: Vegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie Flowers, "The Weekend's Coming"

This is part of a series of short pieces discussing each of the 29 tracks on our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4The CD can be ordered at Kool Kat Musik.


6. VEGAS WITH RANDOLPH FEATURING LANNIE FLOWERS: "The Weekend's Coming"

As a life-long fan of comic books, I very much appreciate the idea of two separate favorites joining forces as one. Superman and Batman! Spider-Man and Red Sonja! Wonder Woman and Jerry Lewis! The list goes on and on, from Mary Marvel and Bulletgirl to KISS and Vampirella, Archie and The Ramones. Your two fave raves in one adventure--who can resist that?

So Dana and I feel like the power pop equivalent of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as we announce this epic team-up of Vegas With Randolph and Lannie Flowers. Face front, True Believers--this one's got it all!

Given our comic-book motif today, it's fitting to note that one of Vegas With Randolph's past picks t' click on TIRnRR was a wonderful song called "Supergirl." VWR has released a ton of great stuff over a span of years, and their Bandcamp page is loaded with pretty pop tunes that you've just gotta have. For all that, I don't think we've played VWR anywhere near as much as we'd like to, nor anywhere near as much as they deserve. But we love Vegas With Randolph. When we began the quiet, undercover process of assembling this compilation, we contacted VWR's Eric Kern to see if they'd be willing to contribute a track to TIRnRR # 4, and we reacted with predictably giddy glee when they agreed.

Shortly thereafter, the VWR family suffered a loss with the passing of bassist and founding member Dan Aylestock. You know what's the one idea that unites right and left equally? Cancer sucks. The members of the group paused the process of recording their fourth album, and took time to mourn their friend. Dana and I would have understood if they chose to defer participation in any This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilations until some future volume; as important as pop music is to all of us, our real lives and loved ones take precedence. But Eric said no. In fact, he said they were set to return to work on a brand new track that was not only letter-perfect for us, but a track that would also feature another long-time TIRnRR stalwart, Lannie Flowers.

Lannie, bless 'im, seems to like TIRnRR almost as much as TIRnRR likes him. We've been playing Lannie's stuff for quite some time, including both his solo material and his recordings with a cool combo called The Pengwins. Lannie gave us a superswell song called "Everything A Man Could Want" for our last TIRnRR collection, and he's consistently preached on our behalf, too. So, given an opportunity to hear a new song by both Vegas With Randolph and Lannie Flowers--and not just to hear it, but to claim it as part of our own project--well, I think we agreed to that even faster than Clark Kent can outrace a speeding bullet.

"The Weekend's Coming" lives up to our sky-high expectations, leaping over tall buildings with superheroic dispatch. Listen: we like party songs. We dig party songs by KISS and Chuck Berry and Prince and so many others. As members of the rock 'n' roll proletariat, we're likewise enthused about workin' class anthems by The Easybeats and The Vogues and The Nerves. That makes "The Weekend's Coming" a natural for all of us who wanna clock out and get down, with fists and voices raised.

But there's a specific subtle something extra in the song's final verse that lifts it even further. The basics of a weekend party tune are simple: it's Friday night or thereabouts, so let hi-jinks ensue. The execution and atmosphere are what can make it transcend the perfunctory likes of, say, Loverboy, and this song has no worries on that score. Beyond the bacchanalia, though, that final verse gives us two wage slaves seeking and acquiring a different path to Saturday and Sunday satisfaction: the guy beating traffic to just escape the city for a while, and the gal intent on getting home to curl up with "a good book and a great Cabernet." And with that, Vegas With Randolph and Lannie Flowers convey the weekend's appeal even to those of us not flocking to bars and discos: We all need it in our own way, but we need it just the same.

Yes. Exactly.

See, celebrations of the weekend don't have to be about just the Happy Hours and the nights on the town. Those are potential parts of the festivities, and the weekend reveler is free to find his or her own preferred mix of disco dancing, family events, punk shows, film festivals, poker tournaments, baseball games, open mics, picnics, fine dining, pizza, ice cream cones, TV shows, poetry slams, musical theater, karaoke, trivia contests, limbo contests, long naps, long walks, long conga lines, big parties, small gatherings, art galleries, swap meets, casinos, museums, romance, camaraderie, solitude--time with others, and time alone.  All in our own way, all needed just the same. Even for folks like me, who have worked most weekends for the entirety of our adult lives, the weekend still means something, even if it doesn't precisely match what the calendar says. On behalf of Vegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie Flowers, This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl is pleased to offer you this universal weekend anthem, your soundtrack regardless of whether you want to grab a beer and join some Attractive Approachable in a Twist-a-thon or grab a cup of tea and settle in with a thrift-store paperback novel.

Or, for that matter, with a comic book. 'Nuff said. Excelsior!

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 




Friday, July 28, 2017

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: Circe Link & Christian Nesmith, "I'm On Your Side"

This is part of a series of short pieces discussing each of the 29 tracks on our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4The CD can be ordered at Kool Kat Musik.



5. CIRCE LINK & CHRISTIAN NESMITH: "I'm On Your Side"

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl would like to thank Mr. Mark Zuckerberg for his invaluable and essential contributions to the making of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4.

You think I'm joking?  Well...maybe you're right. But it's nonetheless true that Zuckerberg's baby Facebook introduced me (in roundabout fashion) to the magic of Circe Link & Christian Nesmith. And this compilation is much stronger because of that.

I'm not exactly sure when I first became aware of this particular dynamic duo. Dana and I saw Christian play live as a member of The Monkees' touring band in 2012, one of the best concerts I've ever witnessed. Some time later, my jaw dropped when I saw a video of Circe, Christian, and company backing up Micky Dolenz on a live medley of "Porpoise Song" and The Beatles' "Good Morning, Good Morning."Chills. Clearly, there was some amazing talent at work here.

You know how Facebook works. Zuckerberg's machine constantly suggests new friends to add to your own social network, based on mutual interests and acquaintances. So when Facebook recommended I add Circe Link to my cyber circle (probably based on our shared friendship with Keith Klingensmith), I said yeah yeah yeah even faster'n Micky sings no no no in "Last Train To Clarksville." Because why not?

It was a passive friendship, as many Facebook friendships are. Still, when Circe posted a note about a popular Facebook challenge to quote the fifth sentence on the 56th page of whatever book happened to be the nearest to you at the moment, I responded with a link to a blog I'd just written on that very subject. Circe was amused, and suggested she and Christian come on our show some time to chat about books and music.

Wow. Did Zuckerberg himself just turn on that light bulb over my head? Possibly. I just knew that now I wanted Circe and Christian on the next This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilation.

I already knew a little of Circe's recorded work, and some YouTube videos of covers that she and Christian had done. I went to circelink.com for a deeper catalog dive, and was absolutely smitten with a limited-edition release called The Pop EP. My God, this stuff was terrific! I ordered a CD copy immediately, and I contacted Circe to beg for permission to use a Pop EP track called "I'm On Your Side" on TIRnRR # 4. After an exchange of questions and assurances (and a much-needed, much-appreciated reference from Keith Klingensmith, just to indicate to Circe that Dana and I were sorta kinda legit), Circe was indeed on our side.

Circe and Christian are much more well-known than Dana & Carl, our hype notwithstanding. It's likely that they won't benefit much (if at all) from the exposure of appearing on this compilation. But I betcha there are still some folks out there who haven't yet experienced the delight and wonder of their work. I know that at least a couple of TIRnRR listeners purchased Circe's latest album Enchanted Objects And Ordinary Things because we played the sublime "Yellow Dress" a time or several on the show. Both "Yellow Dress" and "I'm On Your Side" seem virtual shoo-ins for our annual year-end countdown show. We spread the word of this incredible music made by our Facebook friends. That's what friends are for. Thanks, Mr. Zuckerberg. Thank you, Keith. And thank you, Circe and Christian. We're on your side, too.

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: Ray Paul, "I Need Your Love Tonight"

This is part of a series of short pieces discussing each of the 29 tracks on our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4The CD can be ordered at Kool Kat Musik.


4. RAY PAUL: "I Need Your Love Tonight"

Lust.

Folks often equate pure pop music with a presumed innocence, a longing for true love manifested in holding hands while walking along the sand. But much of power pop is built upon a big brass bedrock of urgent, earthy desire. The Raspberries. The Knack. Even seemingly pristine pleas like The Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice" can use images of wedded bliss and everlasting love to (partially) cloak an earnest intent to shake the sheets. Wouldn't it be nice? Oh, yes....

Ray Paul knows his pop music. He knows its history, and he knows how it's done. And he knows that even an everlasting love has to start with the spark of one single night.

We've been corresponding with Ray since the earliest days of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, when Ray was living in Southern California, running a fab record label called Permanent Press. I recall receiving a message from Ray about TIRnRR, raving about our show, lamenting that even though he lived in the biggest media hub in the world, there was no one out there doing anything like what Dana and I were doing for three hours on the radio every week.

We were fans of Ray, as well; Permanent Press was a solid label, releasing both new and archival essentials from the likes of Badfinger, The Carpet Frogs, The Breetles, Walter Clevenger, and, of course, Ray Paul himself. In 2000, Ray's CD The Charles Beat collected his work from the late '70s and early '80s alongside a new collaboration with Emitt Rhodes. The Charles Beat included Ray's 1981 single "How Do You Know?," which became one of TIRnRR's all-time most-played tracks. Ray has appeared as a guest on TIRnRR twice, and I interviewed him for a feature in Yeah Yeah Yeah magazine. As a publicist, he continues to send great new stuff our way, from The Grip Weeds to Richard X. Heyman. His own 2016 release Whimsicality has been a consistent source of cool tunes for airplay on our little mutant radio show.

Until now, though, Ray has never appeared on a This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilation. He wanted to, and we wanted him to, but the timing never worked out to make it happen. So when Dana and I were in the first, secret stages of assembling TIRnRR # 4, Ray was one of the first acts we approached.

And Ray had just the right song in mind.

It wasn't finished. It hadn't been recorded. He wouldn't even tell us the title at first. All he said was that it channeled Cheap Trick, and that it would be perfect for us. And man, was he ever right.

"I Need Your Love Tonight" is an irresistible explosion of primal, churning physical need, dressed in pretty pop clothing that it can't wait to strip out of. It's so good, and it revels in its own playfulness like a confident rockin' pop tune oughtta. While Ray was working on the track with Terry Draper of Klaatu, Terry asked Ray, "Are you sure you wanna give this song away...?!"

HA! It's ours now! But we're willing to share. While the track will, I'm sure, eventually appear on another new Ray Paul album someday, right now it's part of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4. And it's looking for some action, ladies. Love. I need a love. I want your love. I need a la-la-la-la-love. Take us all the way to everlasting love.

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: Pop Co-Op, "You Don't Love Me Anymore"

This is part of a series of short pieces discussing each of the 29 tracks on our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4The CD can be ordered at Kool Kat Musik.



3. POP CO-OP: "You Don't Love Me Anymore"

We're told that This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl played some small role in the genesis of the group Pop Co-Op. If true, then Dana & I have a message for all pop fans: You're welcome.

But some specific thanks are also due to Elizabeth Racz, the TIRnRR fan we usually just call "Baby" (because I got tired of mispronouncing her name). Among her many contributions to whatever the hell it is we do each week, Baby's the one who set up our Facebook group TIR'N'RR, which has become an online meeting place for listeners to kibitz and carouse as the show streams live on Sunday nights. Like The Beatles' Liverpool and Batman's Gotham City, the Facebook TIR'N'RR chat group was part of the origin of Pop Co-Op.

And I can't detail it much more beyond that. The chronology gets tangled, the inter-relationships crossed, connected, and re-connected. Pop Co-Op guitarist Joel Tinnel said the other day that I hipped him to the music of The Spongetones; I had no idea we did that, but that's an important thread in getting Joel into a band alongside Spongetones (and now Pop Co-Op) bassist Steve Stoeckel. I presume the chat group is also where Joel (and maybe Steve) met our long-time listener Bruce Gordon, the auteur of the pristine pop of Mr. Encrypto, and now a member of Pop Co-Op as well. And Pop Co-Op drummer Stacy Carson came to us after the fact, introduced to TIRnRR following the release of Pop Co-Op's debut album, Four State Solution (aka, Your Favorite Record of 2017). Full circle. And the circle's tangents include other listeners, like Rich and Kathy Firestone, who (I think) brought Joel and his wife Laura Sessions Tinnel into the TIRnRR fold via their shared love of the music of The Smithereens (and whom I definitely hooked on The Spongetones). Plus Baby. And others. The beat goes on!

Another plank on the path to Pop Co-Op bears our name, even though TIRnRR really had nothing to do with it. Steve Stoeckel is something of a creative dynamo, always playing and concocting...something. A few years back, Steve decided to try to write a new pop song as a collaboration with a bunch of folks on Facebook, putting the lyrics together line by line based on suggestions from these individuals. The result was a lovely confection called "I Could Be Good For You," which Steve then recorded, and we then played an awful lot on the show. We loved the song so much we asked Steve if we could include it on our This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 3 compilation in 2013. He agreed, and even let us bill it as Steve Stoeckel and His This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio All Stars. If it were possible for Dana and I to feel humbled, that woulda done the trick right there.

The ad hoc All Stars recorded a few more tracks, including "You Don't Love Me Anymore," which-- like "I Could Be Good For You"--was written by Steve's co-writin' committee (Brenda Trent Dillon, Loyd Dillon, Laura Sessions Tinnel, Joel Tinnel, Elizabeth Racz, Kathy Jackson Firestone, and that Steve Stoeckel). Pop Co-Op didn't necessarily come directly out of the All Stars, but the combo did emerge out of that same infectious sense of community, camaraderie, and collaboration. Joel, Steve, Bruce, and Stacy have never all been in the same room at the same time. Their album title Four State Solution refers to the disparate stomping grounds of the group's membership, with each player crafting his individual part in his own home town, the parts uniting via the modern technological miracle of MAGIC to form a cohesive whole. If Dana and I had any part whatsoever in inspiring that, then dammit, I think we are humbled after all.

When Four State Solution came out in early 2017, and Dana and I were starting the quiet work of assembling the then-secret This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4, I contacted Steve to see if we could use the All Stars' still-unreleased "You Don't Love Me Anymore," and bill it as a Pop Co-Op track. Steve was fine with that, but with one condition: he wanted to turn it into a bona fide Pop Co-Op track, so he called in the lads, across four states, to make it so.

The resulting final Pop Co-Op version of "You Don't Love Me Anymore" is an exquisite lament, a shimmering application of broken heart to shiny sleeve. We didn't write it. We didn't play on it. We had nothing to do with its creation. But we're happy to play it on the radio, and we're delighted to claim it as part of TIRnRR's expanding community. Yes. You're welcome, indeed.

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Flashcubes' 40th Anniversary: TICKETS!



Ticket are now available for The Flashcubes' 40th Anniversary show, which takes place Friday, September 1st, at Funk 'N Waffles in Syracuse. Your hosts are Dana & Carl, your Super Special Guests are The Ohms, The Trend, and Maura & the Bright Lights, and you get two blistering live sets from Syracuse's own power pop powerhouse, THE FLASHCUBES! You're goin'. We're ALL goin'. 

TICKETS:
The Flashcubes' 40th Anniversary Party

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: The Spongetones, "(Our Guys) Dana & Carl"

This is part of a series of short pieces discussing each of the 29 tracks on our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4The CD can be ordered at Kool Kat Musik.



2. THE SPONGETONES: "(Our Guys) Dana & Carl [TIRnRR ID]"

Where and from whom did I first hear about The Spongetones? My gut and aging memory both claim I learned about the fabulous 'Tones online from my friend Greg Ogarrio in the early '90s. Greg was among a handful of power pop pals I met via Prodigy, an online service that flourished briefly and then disappeared entirely. Prodigy was my introduction to the wonder of the internet, and it was through Prodigy's auspices that I find myself within a small pop community, talking about things like Big Star and The Raspberries, trading mix tapes, and trying to turn new friends on to personal fave raves. I introduced Greg to the music of The Flashcubes. Greg introduced me to the music of The Spongetones. We both did pretty well in that exchange.

While Greg was (I think) the first to try to school me in all things Spongetone, I'm not sure if I finally heard them for the first time via his cassette mix (which included "Have You Ever Been Torn Apart?" and "Stupid Heart") or via the then-new Spongetones CD Oh Yeah! I special-ordered at Mainly Disc in Syracuse in 1991. Regardless of which exposure came first, the two sources combined to make me a Spongetones fan immediately.

Armed with Oh Yeah! and aware of at least a couple of great tracks that preceded it, I set myself the task of puttin' together a complete Spongetones library stat. I ordered their earlier vinyl records (Beat Music and Torn Apart) via an ad in Goldmine, and another online chum, Keith Klingensmith, supplied me with a copy of The Spongetones' then-elusive Where-Ever-Land CD. As a freelance writer, I horned in on contributing to a CD buyer's guide book called MusicHound Rock, and writing about The Spongetones' catalog o' wonder was among the assignments I snagged:

The early Beatles reborn, or merely an incredible re-creation (or maybe Klaatu in disguise)? Dismissed by some as too slavishly derivative of The Fab Four, The Spongetones have delighted discerning pop fans with avowedly Beatlesque hooks and harmonies. The group's earliest efforts were engaging pastiches of Beatles '65--much like The Rutles played straight--with each tune a familiar-sounding rummage through the British Invasion songbook. While it's certainly fun playing Name That Tune, the appeal of The Spongetones' recordings lies not in where the group nicks it hooks and melodies, but in the self-assured manner in which it assembles such thefts into appealing new pop confections. Later recordings have downplayed the Mersey factor but have generally retained an unspoiled, irresistible pop charm.

The Spongetones did indeed leave overt Beatlemania behind, but they never stopped making great pop records. Somewhere along the way, I started corresponding with guitarist Jamie Hoover, and later with bassist Steve Stoeckel, and we'll be discussing each of them (and that Keith Klingensmith guy) in due time. Jamie collaborated with Bill Lloyd on a track included on our first TIRnRR compilation in 2004, The Spongetones themselves appeared on Volume 2, and Steve Stoeckel even let us call him and some music-makin' buddies Steve Stoeckel and His This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio All Stars on a track he gave us for Volume 3. See, there's a guy with a secure sense of self. Steve's also done about a million way-fab promos for TIRnRR, and this is one of 'em: The Spongetones introducing themselves individually, as "(My Girl) Maryanne"--my favorite Spongetones song!--plays in the background.  Cheekily retitled "(Our Guys) Dana & Carl," we couldn't resist including it on This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4.

And for all that, it's still the least of three Spongetones-related tracks on TIRnRR # 4. We'll talk about Jamie's track in just a bit; we'll talk about Steve's next.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio # 882



Sometimes the playlist should speak for itself. With new music from The American Professionals, Terry Draper, Laurie Biagini, Nezrock, and Danny Adlerman & Friends, and a new archival release from Green Circles, this playlist speaks with fluent authority. 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 Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern at www.westcottradio.org

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

TIRnRR # 882: 7/23/17

THE RAMONES: Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio? (Rhino, End Of The Century)
--
THE UPPER CRUST: Old Money (Upstart, Let Them Eat Rock)
WANDA JACKSON: Let's Have A Party (Metro, First Lady Of Rockabilly)
KISS: Tomorrow (Mercury, Unmasked)
ALTERED IMAGES: Happy Birthday (Sony, VA: New Wave Hits Of The 70's & 80's)
ONE LIKE SON: Punk Rock Prom Queen (Body Thief, New American Gothic)
MARTI JONES: Tourist Town (Sugar Hill, Live At Spirit Square)
--
THE AMERICAN PROFESSIONALS: W.M.P.M.S. (Charlie In The Box, Sympathetic Overdrive)
THE STONE PONEYS: Different Drum (Capitol, Evergreen, Vol. 2)
THE MONKEES: Terrifying (Rhino, Good Times! [digital version])
GLORIA JONES: Tainted Love (EMI, VA: Girl Crazy!)
HINDU LOVE GODS: Battleship Chains (Giant, Hindu Love Gods)
THE MUFFS: Saying Goodbye (Omnivore, The Muffs)
--
LAURIE BIAGINI: The Comparison Game (n/a, Stranger In The Mirror)
ANNETTE: Pajama Party (Varese Sarabande, VA: Summer Beach Party)
THE BEACH BOYS: That's Why God Made The Radio (Capitol, That's Why God Made The Radio)
NANCY SINATRA: Geronimo (Varese Sarabande, VA: Summer Beach Party)
BONEY M: My Friend Jack (BMG, The Greatest Hits)
DONNA LOREN: Muscle Bustle (Varese Sarabande, VA: Summer Beach Party)
--
GREEN CIRCLES: Elevator Operator (Kool Kat Musik, No Room For Squares)
BLONDIE: One Way Or Another (Chrysalis, The Platinum Collection)
THE KINKS: Dedicated Follower Of Fashion (Essential, The Kink Kontroversy)
THE PRETENDERS: Stop Your Sobbing (Sire, Pretenders)
HOLLY GOLIGHTLY: Time Will Tell (Damaged Goods, Truly She Is None Other)
LULU: The Boat That I Row (Rhino, From Crayons To Perfume)
--
NEZROCK: Andy Please (nezrock.bandcamp.com, single)
THE MO-DETTES: White Mice Disco (Cherry Red, ...The Story So Far)
THE FOUR TOPS: Walk Away Renee (Motown, The Ultimate Collection)
ALMA COGAN: He Just Couldn't Resist Her With Her Pocket Transistor (EMI, VA: Girl Crazy!)
RAY PAUL: I Need Your Love Tonight (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
CIRCE LINK: Yellow Dress (circelink.com, Enchanted Objects & Ordinary Things)
--
TERRY DRAPER: She's All Mine (Klaatunes, Remarkable Women)
PETULA CLARK: Don't Sleep In The Subway (Sanctuary, Songs Of My Life)
COTTON MATHER: King William (Star Apple Kingdom, Wild Kingdom)
JEFFERSON AIRPLANE: Somebody To Love [mono single version] (RCA, Surrealistic Pillow)
YES: Long Distance Runaround (Atlantic, Classic Yes)
P. P. ARNOLD: The First Cut Is The Deepest (Immediate, The First Cut)
--
RICHARD X. HEYMAN: A Fool's Errand (Turn-Up, Incognito)
JOYCE GREEN: Black Cadillac (Flying World, VA: Big Box Of Rockabilly)
PRINCE: When You Were Mine (Warner Brothers, The Hits/The B-Sides)
BRENDA LEE: Rock The Bop (Floating World, VA: Big Box Of Rockabilly)
THE RAMONES: Blitzkrieg Bop (Rhino, Ramones)
CYNDI LAUPER: She Bop (Portrait, She's So Unusual)
--
THE AMERICAN PROFESSIONALS: The Story  (Charlie In The Box, Sympathetic Overdrive)
THE TOURISTS: I Only Want To Be With You (BMG, Greatest Hits)
THE BAY CITY ROLLERS: Rock And Roll Love Letter (Arista, The Definitive Collection)
SCANDAL: Goodbye To You (Sony Special Markets, We Are The '80s)
DANNY ADLERMAN & FRIENDS: For Pete's Sake (n/a, Remember What You Never Knew)
THE DIXIE CUPS: Iko Iko (Charly, VA: The Red Bird Story)
--
LISA MYCHOLS: Almost Didn't Happen (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
BETTYE LAVETTE: I Feel Good (All Over) (EMI, VA: Girl Crazy!)
DANA COUNTRYMAN [with LISA JENIO]: My Heart Belongs To One Boy (Teensville, Girlsville)
THE GIRLFRIENDS: My One And Only Jimmy Boy (EMI, VA: Girl Crazy!)
CELSI, BRAGG & MAITLAND: Second Summer Of Love (Steel Derrick, The Road To Glasgow)
THE WHAT FOUR: I'm Gonna Destroy That Boy (Legacy, VA: Honeybeat)
COCKTAIL SLIPPERS: St. Valentine's Day Massacre (Wicked Cool, Saint Valentine's Day Massacre)
ERMA FRANKLIN: I Don't Want No Mama's Boy (Legacy, VA: Honeybeat)
MAD MONSTER PARTY: Death Valley Days [7" version] (Kotumba, Mad Monster Party)
IRENE PEÑA: Must've Been Good (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4)
CHUCK BERRY: Guitar Boogie (MCA, The Anthology)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Tonight On THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO



A lotta new stuff has appeared all of a sudden, so we'll haveta make room on tonight's playlist for new music from Laurie Biagini, Nezrock, The American Professionals, and Danny Adlerman & Friends, a new archival release from Green Circles, and the not-new-but-new-to-us TIRnRR debut of The Upper Crust. Don't worry; we'll still wind up wingin' it in between all of this. Plus, like, The Kinks. Sunday night, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org

Saturday, July 22, 2017

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: Meghan Jean Cafarelli, "Perseverance"

This is part of a series of short pieces discussing each of the 29 tracks on our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4. The CD can be ordered at Kool Kat Musik.



1. MEGHAN JEAN CAFARELLI: "Perseverance"

My daughter Meghan was eight years old (possibly as young as seven) when Dana and I began work on our first compilation CD, This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume One. Meghan was nine by the time the CD was released by JAM Recordings in 2004, and I don't remember how far in advance she recorded her track. She sounds so, so young on that CD, excitedly announcing This is rock 'n' roll radio! Come on, let's rock and roll with Dana and Carl!, then adding, I like that one a lot! 

How did all of that time go by so fast? How is it possible that this little, little girl grew up, and just graduated from college in May of 2017? I don't remember growing older; when did she?

Sniff. Gimme a second, folks.



I'm sure that Meghan doesn't remember a time before her dear ol' Dad had a radio show. In December of 1999, on the first anniversary of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl, my lovely wife Brenda brought four-year-old Meghan to the studio to help us celebrate the unlikely milestone of this silly little mutant radio show somehow hanging on for a whole entire year. Meghan wound up sitting in with Eric Strattman (whom she described as "a very nice boy"), host of the terrific show that at that time preceded TIRnRR on Sunday nights, Unsupervised, I Hit My Head. Eric interviewed Meghan on air, and she serenaded him with a quick rendition of "Ruby Tuesday" by The Rolling Stones. And yes, I do indeed still have a recording of that.

So it seemed natural to include Meghan on the first TIRnRR CD. When we did a second CD in (I think) 2006 or whenever it was, we enlisted Meghan's services again (We're back, with more POWER POP!). By the time we got around to This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume Three in 2013, Meghan was a high school senior, about to matriculate her way outta Syracuse for undergraduate life at Ithaca College. With the sass of an experienced teenager, she opened Volume 3 declaring Third time's a charm! And boy, could these guys use some charm! But the charm was all hers.




Another four years passed, seemingly in less time than it takes to type it. Dean's Lists. Honor Societies. Additional scholarships. A semester in London. Ten days in Israel. Praise. Accolades. Experience. And finally, a piece of paper that proclaims Summa cum laude. I like that one a lot.




And now, Meghan's back in Syracuse, pondering her next move. It is nearly inevitable that, whatever that next move will be, it will eventually lead her away from Syracuse. My heart aches. But it has to be. Sunrise, sunset.

But while she's still here, we asked her to record one more intro for This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, and it opens our new CD: I've been putting up with these guys my whole life. Now it's your turn! This IS Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl.

Thank you, little pearl. And now it's your turn.



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Friday, July 21, 2017

TIRnRR # 4 Status Report



Earlier this week, Ray Gianchetti at Kool Kat Musik received the final master of our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4. Dana has completed the graphics, Ray is reviewing the whole package for last-minute glitches, and we all hope to have it available for you soon. You can pre-order it right now at Kool Kat.

Within the next day or several on this blog (i.e., probably either Saturday or Tuesday), I will begin a 29-part track-by-track discussion of the fabulous songs on this album, briefly (no, really!) telling you a little bit about TIRnRR's history with each act. This will be kinda like a bonus set of liner notes, supplementing the actual liners. Please listen loudly.

In addition to saturation airplay on our own little mutant radio show, tracks from This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 have also been heard on Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio and The Wax Museum With Ronnie DarkI've shared the files with the ever-wonderful Palmyra Delran at Little Steven's Underground Garage on Sirius XM. If you're a Sirius subscriber, a polite note to the good folks at Underground Garage requesting tracks from This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 would be appreciated the mostest.  

The time between a CD's completion and its release is...well, not quite awkward, but certainly an odd feeling. After months of work and obsessing over little details, fussing and fixing, and ultimately exulting in the result, we've hit the patch where there's just nothing left to do anymore. We wait. And we listen to this thing we all collaborated in creating, and we ache with the anticipation of more people getting to hear it, again and again. Soon. Soon.

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4
Kool Kat Musik PURR 2061
Produced by Dana Bonn and Carl Cafarelli

1. MEGHAN JEAN CAFARELLI: Perseverance
2. THE SPONGETONES: (Our Guys) Dana & Carl [TIRnRR ID]
3. POP CO-OP: You Don't Love Me Anymore
4. RAY PAUL: I Need Your Love Tonight
5. CIRCE LINK & CHRISTIAN NESMITH: I'm On Your Side
6. VEGAS WITH RANDOLPH FEATURING LANNIE FLOWERS: The Weekend's Coming
7. THE SLAPBACKS: Make Something Happen
8. P. HUX: Better Than Good
9. IRENE PEÑA: Must've Been Good
10. MICHAEL OLIVER & THE SACRED BAND FEATURING DAVE MERRITT: You Won't Do
11. THE RUBINOOS: Nowheresville
12. STEPFORD KNIVES: Her Reputation
13. THE GRIP WEEDS: Strange Bird [remix of original single]
14. POPDUDES: She Is Funny (In That Way)
15. JOSEPH R. BALINT JR.: Civitas Romanas [TIRnRR ID]
16. RONNIE DARK: '70s Van
17. THE FLASHCUBES: No Promise [4-track]
18. CHRIS VON SNEIDERN: Insomniac Summer
19. THE BOTTLE KIDS: Let Me In On This Action
20. 1.4.5.: Your Own World [original version]
21. THE SMITHEREENS: Got Me A Girl
22. PAUL COLLINS BEAT: She Doesn't Want To Hang Around With You
23. THE HIT SQUAD: Best Of Me
24. THE RULERS: I Want My Ramones Records Back
25. THE LEGAL MATTERS: Don't Look Back
26. MAURA & THE BRIGHT LIGHTS: Maybe Someday
27. MR. ENCRYPTO: Harmony Cathedral/Daisy Bang [TIRnRR ID]

28. LISA MYCHOLS: Almost Didn't Happen
29. MR. ENCRYPTO & THE CYPHERS: Home On The Radio


Thursday, July 20, 2017

THE FLASHCUBES: Live Video 1980 (and '78, too)




The Holy Grail? Perhaps not quite. But this is pretty damned special to me.

When your all-time favorite power pop group was a local Syracuse band that never quite snagged a record deal during its late '70s heyday, your chances of finding vintage video performances of that band in action should rightly range from slim to none to are you outta your freakin' gourd, man?! This is part of the burden long-time fans of The Flashcubes have shouldered for decades.  The Flashcubes shoulda been stars. Instead, they broke up in relative obscurity; their audience materialized in time, but well after the fact, too late to propel The Flashcubes on to American Bandstand or Midnight Special or Night Flight or that '80s thing, MTV.

So I'm amazed to see this video for the first time this week: video of The Flashcubes on stage at Hurrah's in New York, a full freakin' set from February 19, 1980. Granted, it's Flashcubes Mark II, after guitarist and founding member Paul Armstrong had been replaced by Mick Walker (an accomplished guitarist whose only real flaw in the 'Cubes was that he wasn't Paul Armstrong, kinda like The Beatles with, say, Mick Taylor in place of John Lennon--interesting, but not quite the same as the original). But it's still bassist Gary Frenay, guitarist Arty Lenin, and drummer Tommy Allen, mere months before that trio left the 'Cubes behind to form the also-great combo Screen Test. This set may, in fact, seem closer in style to Screen Test than the raucous earlier sound of The Flashcubes with Paul. But nonetheless, while the original Flashcubes have my eternal loyalty, this is also really, really cool. I give to you, all you Bright Lights and Boppin' folks alike, a real treat: nearly 50 minutes of The Flashcubes live in 1980:


Man, that was good.

The Flashcubes--Paul, Gary, Arty, and Tommy--are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. There's a big 40th anniversary party on September 1st at Funk N' Waffles in Syracuse, with Maura & the Bright Lights, The Trend, The Ohms, and two blistering sets from Syracuse's own power pop powerhouse, The Flashcubes. Your on-stage hosts are Dana & Carl, and missing it would be just plain silly. I hope to have ticket information available soon. The 'Cubes have given us the original, long-lost 4-track of their greatest song, "No Promise," for use on our own forthcoming compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4, which you can pre-order right now at Kool Kat Musik. There will also be a new 2-CD 40th anniversary collection, Flashcubes Forever, available in time for the big show on September 1st. Is this year of The Flashcubes? Listen: for fans like me, every year is The Year Of The Flashcubes; this is Year Of The Flashcubes # 40. Jump on the bandwagon, friend--there's always room for one more Bright Light.

(Wait. We can't have a Flashcubes post without Paul Armstrong represented. Here's another vintage Flashcubes video, with the original quartet, from the Oswego cable access TV show Up Your Alley in 1978:)



And why stop there? Here's a rare 1979 student project, discussing our 'Cubes. The student who assembled this 8mm treasure back then was one Jackie Lewis, who has now been married to Gary Frenay for 33 years. Who says there are no happy endings in pop music?


Finally, this is a fictional look at how it should have gone for The Flashcubes: A Brighter Light In My Mind Sadly, there is no video to go with this flight of fancy: you'll have to turn to the bright lights flickering in your own mind. Hope to see you in Syracuse for The Flashcubes' 40th on September 1st.



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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

THE 13th DIMENSION! Batman, The Monkees, And Me



Astute readers of Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) will notice the comics site 13th Dimension among my list of recommended blogs ("When I'm Not Reading My Blog, I Read These Blogs"). Dan Greenfield at 13th Dimension recently plugged Boppin' with an edited version of my own scenario of how to do a Batman '66 Meets The Monkees comic book. Dan added some insights of his own, so I encourage you to check out the cheap thrills of the combination of the two--wait, wrong band!--over at that specific Monkees Pad Batcave. Go, and tell 'em Boppin' sez thanks! (And you can, of course, still see my complete original post right here: Batman Meets The Monkees.)

Like my pal Rich Firestone says, The Monkees have been good to me. The attention from 13th Dimension has provided enough fresh clicks here to push Batman Meets The Monkees into my all-time Top 10 most-viewed blog posts. Similarly, my recent selection of The Monkees: Welcome To The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (which had already been one of my most-viewed posts anyway) as this week's Featured Post caused it to leap-frog over a couple of other favorites, and even rocketed it past my review of The Monkees' Good Times! to occupy the # 2 spot. (My all-time # 1 remains my Greatest Record Ever Made post about "Beach Baby" by The First Class; the enduring popularity of that specific post above all others continues to puzzle and delight me.)

The Monkees have been featured in editions of a few of my many ongoing series on Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do): Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery, The Everlasting First, and Second Hand Sound. Given their popularity here, and the fact that I love writing about them anyway, it's a safe bet that you'll see more of The Monkees in the near future. Think they're about due for a Greatest Record Ever Made, right? I know just the record....

Nope. That ain't it.
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

COMIC BOOK RETROVIEW: DC 100-Page Super Spectaculars, Part Nine

Continuing a look back at DC Comics' 100-Page Super Spectaculars in the 1970sBegin with Part 1, move on to Part 2, then Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8. Time now for the thrilling conclusion.




100 pages. That's a bargain, right? In the early '70s, 100 pages of comics could be yours for the low, low price of just fifty cents. Even when dat ole debbil inflation pushed the cover price up to a scandalous sixty cents, it was still a bargain. Old comics and new comics, all wrapped together within a Nick Cardy cover, a lesson in comics history teaming up with the latest adventures of your favorite heroes. A bargain, for sure. And for those who love bargains, what could be better than more bargains? More 100-pagers! More titles! More books! Why settle for just a single 100-Page Super Spectacular each month, when we can have a whole line of titles in that format? More! MORE!!

It was, ultimately, too much of a good thing.

In late 1973, I was 13, nearing my fourteenth birthday coming up in January. I don't recall my precise feelings about the expansion of the Super Spectacular line, though I imagine was in favor it. I do remember being less than fully enthused with some of the resulting book themselves. Detective Comics was a 100-page treat, and so was Batman. But, for me, much of the rest of the 100-page line was more hit or miss than would have seemed likely.

If you're a comics fan, your appreciation of these books may vary significantly from mine. I wanted more Golden Age material from the '40s in the Super Specs' reprints, and I felt that there was too much humdrum (to me) Silver Age stuff where a vintage Spy Smasher, Plastic Man, or Merry, Girl Of 1,000 Gimmicks should have appeared instead. Some of the new material also presented a mixed bag for my increasingly idiosyncratic taste. Maybe I was growing up? Maybe I was outgrowing superhero comics?

No, no--let's not get crazy here.





But the increasing prevalence of fifty- and sixty-cent books stretched my comics-buyin' budget beyond its capacity. World's Finest Comics? The Brave And The Bold? I think I found ways to continue getting most of these issues (without resorting to pilferage), but they were barely holding my interest, if that. (The Brave And The Bold, which had once been one of my favorite comic books, will be the subject of an extended rant another day. For now, suffice it to say that the comic hadn't really changed so much as my taste had changed.)



Although I'd love to read them again now, I never did muster up much enthusiasm at the time for Superman Family, a new 100-page title that replaced the long-running Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen (from which Superman Family continued its numbering) and Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane, as well as the shorter-lived Supergirl title. Those three former lead features rotated the lead spot in Superman Family, backed by reprints of the other two (and other Superman-related stories). I don't even really remember the 100-page Superman books, and the sole pair of 100-page editions of Action Comics kinda left me cold. I dug the two 100-page issues of Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, which offered new Legion stories drawn by artist Mike Grell (whose rendition of Lana Lang seemed a bit sexier to me than any previous depiction of Smallville's favorite daughter) and some cool LSH reprints.



     

Two of DC's licensed titles also went the 100-page route. Tarzan was an interesting experiment; the new adventures of Tarzan, Korak, and (in Tarzan # 230) Carson of Venus were simply gorgeous, with artwork by the likes of Joe Kubert, Russ Heath, Mike Kaluta, and Alex Niño, sometimes supplemented by reprints of equally-stunning Tarzan newspaper strips by Russ Manning. DC filled the rest of the book with an odd but intriguing selections of reprints from its own archives, starring characters like Detective Chimp, Congo Bill, and Rex the Wonder Dog. The first two 100-page Tarzans also included reprints of DC's mid-'60s licensed title Bomba The Jungle Boy. However, since DC no longer had the comics rights to our Bomba, he was re-named Simba The Jungle Boy. Listen: if you've seen one jungle boy, you've seen 'em all.



Another ongoing 100-page licensed title was Shazam!. Of course, no one knew at the time that it was a licensed book; virtually everyone thought that DC had purchased the rights to the original Captain Marvel, rather than entering into a licensing deal with Cap's former publisher, Fawcett Comics. But the 100-page Shazam! books nonetheless offered a bounty of Golden Age action starring The Big Red Cheese and the rest of The Marvel Family. The new Marvel Family material couldn't match the vintage stuff, and I was always disappointed that we didn't get to see reprints of the other former Fawcett heroes that we all thought DC owned outright, characters like Spy Smasher, Bulletman, Ibis the Invincible, and Mr. Scarlet.  Still, you'll never hear me complaining about an opportunity to read '40s and '50s stories starring The World's Mightiest Mortal.




Justice League Of America also switched to an ongoing Super Spectacular format, and I surely never missed an issue of that. JLA was written by Len Wein at the time, and I don't think anyone's ever really challenged Wein's status as my all-time favorite Justice League scribe. Hell, I didn't even mind the pandering cover blurb of Here Come TV's Super-Friends!, because this was rock-solid superhero storytelling. Most issues also included vintage tales of The Justice Society of America, but issues # 111 and 112 upped the ante by instead serializing a 1940s Seven Soldiers Of Victory story, giving me my first chance to read a Golden Age adventure of this lesser-known super-group. My only real complaint about the 100-page era of Justice League was that the book's bi-monthly status meant that the traditionally two-part annual JLA/JSA crossover was cut back to a single issue. And it was still worth it!

Unfortunately, the comics-buying market in 1974 apparently did not agree that these books were worth it. By the end of '74, the last 100-Page Super Spectaculars hit the stands: Batman # 261, The Flash # 232, Justice League Of America # 116, Shazam! # 17, The Unexpected # 162, World's Finest Comics # 228, and Young Romance # 204, all cover-dated March-April 1975, but all long gone from the spinner racks by the time the calendar's pages actually flipped to the spring of '75. In their place, a few more diminutive books tried to pass themselves off as Giants. Giants? At a mere 64 pages?! A giant compared to the puny books otherwise cluttering the racks, I guess, but not a true giant. Not a Super Spectacular.
Er--Super Spectacular or not, this looks pretty damned good...!
The marketplace could not sustain the glut of 100-page comic books. The format disappeared entirely, revived only for sporadic nostalgic kicks in the '90s. DC's publisher Carmine Infantino would continue to try to find a format that would entice readers and recapture market share; the dollar tabloids were another cool attempt to accomplish that goal, and they'll likely be the subject of a future reminiscence here in Comic Book Retroview. But Infantino's days at DC's helm were numbered; he was dismissed from the position in early 1976.




But my fondness of that brief flourish of 100-Page Super Spectaculars remains as strong today as it was when I was eleven years old in 1971, and my eyes widened at the sight of my first Super Spec. I occasionally toy with the idea of manipulating my digital comics files in an attempt to concoct new (well, faux new) Super Spectaculars, creating a 100-page Adventure Comics, or The Shadow, or The Sandman, or Rima The Jungle Girl, mixing the then-fresh '70s exploits of those books' stars with vintage vault-raids starring The Boy Commandos, Minute Man, Midnight, Miss America, Robotman, Kid Eternity, and The Crime Crusaders Club (the one-off 1940s Fawcett super-group with Captain Marvel Jr., Minute Man, and Bulletman and Bulletgirl). But it's too much work, and it wouldn't be real.



But those original 100-pagers? To this kid, trying to grow up in the '70s, in that vast but fleeting expanse of time between discovering Hot Wheels and discovering The Ramones, they were real. And they were Spectacular.

(A tip of the Super-Specs to TwoMorrows Publishing's Back Issue magazine, whose spotlight on DC's 100-Page Super Spectaculars in Back Issue # 81 was an invaluable resource in assembling this nine-part retrospective.)



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