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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.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

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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