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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.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

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, Torbj√∂rn 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.

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