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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, August 6, 2017

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: The Grip Weeds, "Strange Bird"

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.



13. THE GRIP WEEDS: "Strange Bird"

The Grip Weeds have certainly been a long-standing, consistent favorite on This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio for many years now. This is their second appearance on a TIRnRR compilation, but I also heard the group for the first time via a different compilation. Credit for that goes to legendary power pop performer (and fellow TIRnRR # 4 participant) Paul Collins.

Collins' connection was tangential, really. A label called Wagon Wheel Records was formed in the early '90s by Collins and Rick Wagner, and Wagon Wheel released The Paul Collins Band's From Town To Town CD in 1993, and subsequently also reissued Collins' first two classic Beat albums. Wagon Wheel's final CD release (I think) before shutting down in the late '90s was a 1995 pop compilation called Pop Matters. Pop Matters served as my introduction to the music of Jeremy (whose own label JAM Recordings would eventually put out the first two TIRnRR comps), The Tearaways, Big Hello, The Rockinghams, and The Hippycrickets, and my first Cockeyed Ghost CD track (that group's Adam Marsland had already treated me to some prime Cockeyed Ghost material on mix tapes). Pop Matters opened with a song called "Salad Days," and that was the first time I heard The Grip Weeds.

Beyond that, the chronology of my rapid and total indoctrination into the blissful Grip of Weedsmania blurs. I may have become more interested via the group's connection with The Rooks, another of the great pop bands of the '90s. Rooks guitarist Kristin Pinell was (and is) also in The Grip Weeds. Kristin's husband Kurt Reil was (and is) the drummer and lead singer for The Grip Weeds, and he played with The Rooks, too. I don't know whether or not guitarist Rick Reil also served any Rooks time, but either way: The Grip Weeds seemed like a band I oughtta know.

And getting to know The Grip Weeds was its own sweet reward.

The Grip Weeds made their TIRnRR debut on our third show, 1/10/99, with a spin of "Out Of Today" from their debut album House Of Vibes. That was also the Grip Weeds track that later appeared on This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 2. We've never really ceased playing them since then. Why should we? Why would we? Across a span of great Grip Weeds albums--The Sound Is In You, Summer Of A Thousand Years, Giant On The Beach, Strange Change Machine, How I Won The War, the best-of set Infinite Soul, the holiday offering Under The Influence Of Christmas, the in-concert Speed Of Live, the rarities collection Inner Grooves--the group has given us a wealth of rockin' pop treasure to play with, and to just plain play. "Every Minute." "I Believe." "Save My Life." "Rainbow Quartz." An ace cover of The Knickerbockers' "Lies." "It Ain't No Big Thing, Babe" (a particular favorite of Dana's). Two different versions of "Rainy Day." "Truth (Is Hard To Take)." These are but a handful of the terrific Grip Weeds tracks that have earned repeated berths on TIRnRR playlists.

We've also played a song called "Strange Bird," which was on the second album, The Sound Is In You. The "Strange Bird" you hear now on TIRnRR # 4 is a different, unique version. Before The Grip Weeds recut the track for that 2003 album, "Strange Bird" was originally the B-side of a German single release of "She Brings The Rain," recorded before Kristin was even a member of the band; Tim Mesko was lead guitarist at the time. The original B-side has never appeared on CD...

...and it still hasn't! The version you hear on TIRnRR # 4 has been remixed, with additional instrumentation, to create a brand-new version that makes its interplanetary debut right here right now. Kurt says this version makes the song sound like he originally envisioned, and we're proud to offer the pop world this public service of lettin' you hear the damned thing.

The Grips Weeds are a treasure. They kick ass live, too; Dana and I had a chance to see 'em in Rochester on the How I Won The War tour (with special guest Ray Paul), and The Grip Weeds deliver, man. If you've never heard them, we firmly recommend you gather everything they've ever released directly from the band, and beg their forgiveness for taking so long to get hip. But it's okay. Music has no expiration date. I discovered Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly in the early '70s, and that music was as fresh to me then (and now) as it woulda been if I'd been spinning 45s in the fabulous '50s. We always say: right now is the best time ever to be a rockin' pop fan, because you have everything that came before, everything in the moment, and everything yet to come. Turn it up. That's what it's there for.

Of course, if you haven't heard The Grip Weeds, that means you haven't heard This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl. We've missed you. Join us. These strange birds are taking flight.

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