Thursday, October 31, 2019

This Mask, This Candy Bar


I don’t remember all of my Halloween costumes. My trick-or-treat years began some time in the early to mid ‘60s, and I retired from door-to-door costumed begging around November 1st of 1972, by then an eighth grader and forced by societal expectations to give up this annual grab for free candy. Stupid societal expectations.

The earliest costume I can remember wearing was my Ben Cooper Superman suit, probably in either ‘65 or ‘66. The costume puzzled me. What was with the eye mask? Superman doesn’t wear a mask! And how come the costume didn’t have red shorts over blue tights, like the Man of Steel wore? Whoever this Ben Cooper guy was, he clearly had no proper eye for detail.



The next year, I was Batman. Of course. My Dad tried to talk me into being The Green Hornet instead, trying to tell me that there’d be tons of Batman wannabes prowling North Syracuse that Halloween night, but The Green Hornet would be unique. I would not be dissuaded; years before Michael Keaton or Christian Bale made it a catchphrase, I was already insisting, “I’M BATMAN!”

The third and final store-bought costume I remember is Birdman, a Hanna-Barbera cartoon hero later subverted into a comedy figure as Harvey Birdman. Hmf. I take my superheroes seriously, thankyouverymuch. And never mind that my Birdman garb was supplemented by a less-than-intimidating pair of cardboard wings I made; criminals may be a superstitious and cowardly lot, but I think my disguise would only strike scornful laughter in their hearts.



I remember three subsequent homemade costumes. One may have just been used for a Cub Scout party rather than actual trick-or-treating. That was my get up as Dworn, the super-weakling from space. I remembered ol’ Dworn from a cherished Superboy 80-Page Giant a few years back, though my look was my own, accomplished with a torn ‘n’ tattered cape and a pretend barbell marked “10 LBS.,” with super-weakling me bent over struggling to carry it. Like Jon Lovitz, I was ACTING...!

Dworn, we hardly knew ye
I did go out one Halloween as the ghost of Ty Cobb. Yeah, top that, you poseurs. I got an old Detroit Tigers uniform from my Dad, and I added a skull mask to make it special. No one was impressed with my creative ingenuity, but I liked me. The costume for my farewell Halloween rounds in ‘72 was Charlie Chaplin. I was a huge Chaplin fan when I was 12, and I was SO proud of that costume. It was a triumphant end to my career as a trick-or-treater.

Although I was now done with soliciting candy from friends, neighbors, strangers, and assorted riff raff, I still wanted to get dressed up the next couple of years, as I took over the role of handing out the sweet treats to the masked kids knocking at our door. As The Shadow, I accidentally terrified one youngster (who got extra candy as compensation for his trauma), but no one knew what to make of me as Groucho Marx.

(Wait. Come to think of it, no one ever knew what to make of me as myself either.)

My interest in Halloween kinda faded away. As a freshman in college, I went to a costume party as a generic glitter rocker I called Satan Starr, Superstar. As a senior, I slapped together a decent Supergirl costume. I wound up reprising that one for two subsequent Halloweens.

For God's sake, put your red shorts on, buddy!
And I only remember three more Halloween costumes, worn to parties hosted by co-workers. In the late ‘80s, I finally took Dad’s suggestion and became The Green Hornet, with lovely wife Brenda poised to kick ass as Kato. There was also a party where Brenda wore my old McDonald’s uniform, and I have no recollection of what I wore. And finally, one Halloween night in the ‘90s, I raided my knickknack drawer for props and tchotchkes to throw together an impromptu disguise as Freelance Generic Batguy (Not Affiliated With DC Comics, A Time-Warner  Company). I slay me.

Now, all of my costumes have been permanently relegated to storage. I mean that figuratively; the costumes themselves are long, long gone. I won't say I outgrew the urge to play dress-up--I've never shown any evidence of outgrowing anything--but really, the only thing I miss about Halloweens of the past is all that free candy. I do dig free candy.

I betcha that Ben Cooper still gets free candy, damn him. Even if his Superman doesn't wear his red shorts on the outside, where they belong.

Wait...what?!
TIP THE BLOGGER: CC's Tip Jar!

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

Fans of pop music will want to check out Waterloo Sunset--Benefit For This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, a new pop compilation benefiting SPARK! Syracuse, the home of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & CarlTIR'N'RR Allstars--Steve StoeckelBruce GordonJoel TinnelStacy CarsonEytan MirskyTeresa CowlesDan PavelichIrene Peña, Keith Klingensmith, and Rich Firestone--offer a fantastic new version of The Kinks' classic "Waterloo Sunset." That's supplemented by eleven more tracks (plus a hidden bonus track), including previously-unreleased gems from The Click BeetlesEytan MirskyPop Co-OpIrene PeñaMichael Slawter (covering The Posies), and The Anderson Council (covering XTC), a new remix of "Infinite Soul" by The Grip Weeds, and familiar TIRnRR Fave Raves by Vegas With RandolphGretchen's WheelThe Armoires, and Pacific Soul Ltd. Oh, and that mystery bonus track? It's exquisite. You need this. You're buying it from Futureman.

(And you can still get our 2017 compilation This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4, on CD from Kool Kat Musik and as a download from Futureman Records.)

Hey, Carl's writin' a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 100 essays (and then some) about 100 tracks, plus two bonus instrumentals, each one of 'em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1).

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

100-Page FAKES! presents: ALL-STAR COMICS # 59

100-Page FAKES! imagines mid-1970s DC 100-Page Super Spectaculars that never were...but should have been!



100-Page FAKES! makes its long-overdue return to DC's 1976 revival of All-Star Comics Everyone's favorite Earth-Two supergroup The Justice Society of America is still billed inside as The All-Star Super Squad, but we know who it is. I loved this series, and I'm pleased that it's recently received a hardcover reprint. But, as much as I dig our JSA, I've gotta tip the hat to a house ad as this issue's true highlight:



'Nuff said.

For reprints, we're gonna go with The Black Canary's first appearance with the original JSA, a Johnny Quick adventure, and a team-up of The Batman and Wildcat from the pages of The Brave And The Bold. Most continuity buffs relegate Wildcat's appearances in B & B to a unique Earth-B (for B & B editor Murray Boltinoff), but I insist there was an Earth-One Wildcat in regular continuity; we just never saw him much outside of The Brave And The Bold. I think his only other appearance was a meeting with The Creeper in an issue of Super-Team Family, but that was considered in continuity at the time, so, y'know, case closed. 

(I may yet re-visit this as a future blog topic, examining what heroes existed on Earth-One in pre-Crisis continuity prior to the arrival of Superman. I'm thinking at least Wildcat, Air Wave, The Vigilante, Sargon the Sorcerer, Blackhawk, and Plastic Man, plus maybe J'onn J'onzz. Any others?)

Roll credits!

The All-Star Super Squad in "When Brainwave Blows Up!," All-Star Comics # 59 (March-April 1976)
The Justice Society Of America in "History's Crime Wave!," All-Star Comics # 38 (December-January 1947-1948)
Johnny Quick in "Prof. Watts' Problem Pupils!," Adventure Comics # 195 (December 1953)
The Batman and Wildcat in "The Smile Of Choclotan!," The Brave And The Bold # 97 (August-September 1971)

Everything's copyright DC Comics Inc., and shown here only in sample pages. My paid patrons see the whole book. More 100-Page FAKES! coming soon.


TIP THE BLOGGER: CC's Tip Jar!

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

Fans of pop music will want to check out Waterloo Sunset--Benefit For This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, a new pop compilation benefiting SPARK! Syracuse, the home of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & CarlTIR'N'RR Allstars--Steve StoeckelBruce GordonJoel TinnelStacy CarsonEytan MirskyTeresa CowlesDan PavelichIrene Peña, Keith Klingensmith, and Rich Firestone--offer a fantastic new version of The Kinks' classic "Waterloo Sunset." That's supplemented by eleven more tracks (plus a hidden bonus track), including previously-unreleased gems from The Click BeetlesEytan MirskyPop Co-OpIrene PeñaMichael Slawter (covering The Posies), and The Anderson Council (covering XTC), a new remix of "Infinite Soul" by The Grip Weeds, and familiar TIRnRR Fave Raves by Vegas With RandolphGretchen's WheelThe Armoires, and Pacific Soul Ltd. Oh, and that mystery bonus track? It's exquisite. You need this. You're buying it from Futureman.

(And you can still get our 2017 compilation This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4, on CD from Kool Kat Musik and as a download from Futureman Records.)

Hey, Carl's writin' a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 100 essays (and then some) about 100 tracks, plus two bonus instrumentals, each one of 'em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1).






COVER GALLERY

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO: As We Approach Our 1000th Show



If the earth beneath our extremely humble studio doesn't collapse first, This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl is set to hit the milestone of our 1000th show on Sunday, November 10th. That's just under two weeks from now, and we're getting stoked. 

And we're getting ready.

"Getting ready" doesn't necessarily mean we're planning things out. Dana and I will have some specifics in mind, some acts and tracks we want to include, and a mere three-hour show will inevitably run outta time to play anywhere near all of the things we want to play. When it's over, we will curse our omissions throughout the commute home. But overall? TIRnRR # 1000 will mostly be improvised on the spot. We did that for our 20th anniversary show last year, and wingin' it with another selection of TIRnRR's greatest hits seems like the best approach to celebrating our unlikely longevity. As I've asked elsewhere: How in the hell are we still here? It's a rhetorical question. We're still here because there are still records that need to be played on the radio.

Before we get to TIRnRR # 1000, I'm approaching this week's # 999 as a prelude to the gala party to follow a week later. Most (if not all) of my selections on this week's show will be encore spins of the first tracks TIRnRR ever played by some of our favorite artists: the first Ramones song we ever played, the first Isley Brothers song we ever played, etc. That will cover my half of # 999, with Dana programming the other half as Dana do, collectively conjuring the combustive alchemy we eschew humility to bill as The Best Three Hours Of Radio On The Whole Friggin' Planet.

This week and next, I'm going to try to finish writing Boppin' The Whole Friggin' Planet (The History Of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio), my (very) long chronicle of who we are and how we came to be. The six chapters posted so far--that would be Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6--tell the story from the first Dana & Carl shows in 1992 through the dawn of TIRnRR at the end of 1998, getting on the web in 2000, and work on our first TIRnRR CD in 2004. Chapter 7 will pick up with the completion of that CD and its sequel, and the entire serial is likely to run a total of nine chapters. That's three chapters less than The Adventures Of Captain Marvel, and six chapters less than Atom Man Vs Superman. I don't know that I can get that all done before the 1000th show on November 10th, but I will complete the story before too long.

And then: November 10th. This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio # 1000. We're still here. Hard to believe. In the mean time, join us for the important prequel of TIRnRR # 999 this Sunday, November 3rd. We have some records to play for you.



TIP THE BLOGGER: CC's Tip Jar!

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

Fans of pop music will want to check out Waterloo Sunset--Benefit For This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, a new pop compilation benefiting SPARK! Syracuse, the home of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & CarlTIR'N'RR Allstars--Steve StoeckelBruce GordonJoel TinnelStacy CarsonEytan MirskyTeresa CowlesDan PavelichIrene Peña, Keith Klingensmith, and Rich Firestone--offer a fantastic new version of The Kinks' classic "Waterloo Sunset." That's supplemented by eleven more tracks (plus a hidden bonus track), including previously-unreleased gems from The Click BeetlesEytan MirskyPop Co-OpIrene PeñaMichael Slawter (covering The Posies), and The Anderson Council (covering XTC), a new remix of "Infinite Soul" by The Grip Weeds, and familiar TIRnRR Fave Raves by Vegas With RandolphGretchen's WheelThe Armoires, and Pacific Soul Ltd. Oh, and that mystery bonus track? It's exquisite. You need this. You're buying it from Futureman.

(And you can still get our 2017 compilation This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4, on CD from Kool Kat Musik and as a download from Futureman Records.)

Hey, Carl's writin' a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 100 essays (and then some) about 100 tracks, plus two bonus instrumentals, each one of 'em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1).

Monday, October 28, 2019

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio # 998



Any record you ain't heard yet is a new record. And if you like it, you don't care if it's old or new, a cover or an original, performed by a tyro or a veteran, and you don't give a damn if it's rock or soul or power pop or country or whatever label a pundit like me affixes to it. You like it. You dig what you wanna dig. And you have a new record to love.

A week ago Sunday, as I was home preparing music for that night's TIRnRR, I heard a song for the first time: "Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache" by The Bandwagon. On a whim, I had purchased a CD collection of the best of Johnny Johnson & the Bandwagon; I knew a few Bandwagon tracks--the bubblesoul classic "Blame It (On The Pony Express)," plus unique covers of "Let's Hang On" and "Mr. Tambourine Man"--and thought the group might have cut a few more interesting tracks that I didn't know about. "Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache" was the first song on the CD.

I played it. And I flipped out. 

It didn't matter that it was from 1968; it was new, new and exciting. I had a new favorite record. Like we've been saying a lot lately: make new friends, but keep the old.

My 60th birthday is looming in January, and I'm fine with that. It's old to some, not all that old to others. My enthusiasm for pop music remains as pervasive and fulfilling as it has been throughout my life so far, a boundless source of energy and affection. There are still a lot of new records waiting for me, and a lot of old favorites that still feel new. 

For this week's celebration of TIRnRR # 998, we featured the music of The Bandwagon/Johnny Johnson & the Bandwagon/Johnny Johnson & his Bandwagon, alongside new tracks by The Cowsills, Micky Dolenz, The Jellybricks, Nick Frater, West Coast Music Club, Nezrock, and The Speed Of Sound, all blended with familiar friends like The Kinks, Joan Armatrading, Squeeze, Anny Celsi, and Merle Haggard. We congratulated The Smithereens for their induction into The New Jersey Hall Of Fame. We wished a Happy Birthday to Johnathan Pushkar. We played The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" for the loved ones we have and the loved ones we've lost, but whom we still keep close within our hearts. 

Any record you ain't heard yet is a new record. Any record you love is a friend. Here's to our friends. This is what rock 'n' roll radio sounded like on a Sunday night in Syracuse this week.

NEXT WEEK: fine, the 999th episode of TIRnRR might not be the specific milestone we oughtta trumpet, but I betcha it'll be a really, really good show. And, among other delights, it will include a reprise of some of the first tracks our show ever played by acts we went on to play again 'n' again. It all leads up to what happens IN TWO WEEKS: TIRnRR # 1000! If you don't dig this one, you do not have a pulse. You won't hear anything new, but maybe you'll hear something that's new to you. Old friends and new friends: join us!

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl, Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse on SPARK! WSPJ-LP 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/

Fans of pop music will want to check out Waterloo Sunset--Benefit For This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, a new pop compilation benefiting SPARK! Syracuse, the home of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & CarlTIR'N'RR Allstars--Steve StoeckelBruce GordonJoel TinnelStacy CarsonEytan MirskyTeresa CowlesDan PavelichIrene Peña, Keith Klingensmith, and Rich Firestone--offer a fantastic new version of The Kinks' classic "Waterloo Sunset." That's supplemented by eleven more tracks (plus a hidden bonus track), including previously-unreleased gems from The Click BeetlesEytan MirskyPop Co-OpIrene PeñaMichael Slawter (covering The Posies), and The Anderson Council (covering XTC), a new remix of "Infinite Soul" by The Grip Weeds, and familiar TIRnRR Fave Raves by Vegas With RandolphGretchen's WheelThe Armoires, and Pacific Soul Ltd. Oh, and that mystery bonus track? It's exquisite. You need this. You're buying the digital download from Futureman and/or the CD from Kool Kat Musik.

(AND you can still get our previous compilation This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 on CD from Kool Kat Musik and as a download from Futureman. We live in a world of plenty!)

PS: SEND MONEY!!!! We need tech upgrades like Elvis needs boats. Spark Syracuse is supported by listeners like you. Tax-deductible donations are welcome at 
http://sparksyracuse.org/support/

You can follow Carl's daily blog Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) at 
https://carlcafarelli.blogspot.com/

Hey, Carl's writin' a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 100 essays (and then some) about 100 songs (plus bonus tracks!), each one of 'em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of songs can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here.


TIRnRR # 998: 10/27/19
This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio FRESH SPINS! (tracks we think we ain't played before) are listed in bold

THE RAMONES: Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio? (Rhino, End Of The Century)
--
THE BANDWAGON: Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache (Kent, Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache)
PAUL McCARTNEY: Take It Away (Capitol, Tug Of War)
THE COWSILLS: Won't You Be My Neighbor (BFD, VA: Thank You, Mister Rogers)
ANY TROUBLE: Playing Bogart (Stiff, Where Are All The Nice Girls?)
JOHNNY JOHNSON & HIS BANDWAGON: Mr. Tambourine Man (Kent, Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache)
THE KINKS: Misty Water (Reprise, The Great Lost Kinks Album)
--
MICKY DOLENZ: Perfectly Beautiful Day (BFD, VA: Thank You, Mister Rogers)
JOHNATHAN PUSHKAR: The Girl Next Door (Jem, Straighten Up)
JOHNNY JOHNSON & THE BANDWAGON: Honey Bee (Diamond Disc, VA: Northern Soul: Keep The Faith, Vol. 3)
THE FIRST CLASS: Beach Baby (Collectables, Beach Baby)
ANNY CELSI: Sideways Rain (Ragazza, Kaleidoscope Heart: 12 Golden Hits)
MANNIX: Highway Lines (Kool Kat Musik, VA: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 3)
--
THE BANDWAGON: On The Day We Fall In Love (Kent, Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache)
BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD: Sit Down I Think I Love You (Rhino, Buffalo Springfield)
THE MONKEES: Birth Of An Accidental Hipster (Rhino, Good Times!)
THE FABULOUS POODLES: Mirror Star (Sequel, His Masters Choice)
WEST COAST MUSIC CLUB: Sometimes (westcoastmusicclub.bandcamp.com, Sometimes)
SQUEEZE: Annie Get Your Gun (A & M, The Squeeze Story)
--
THE JELLYBRICKS: Corner Of My Eye (Wicked Cool, Some Kind Of Lucky)
SIMON MOREL: Always Greener (WildCat, Record # 2)
JOHNNY JOHNSON & HIS BANDWAGON: Gasoline Alley Bred (Kent, Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache)
THE PIXIES: Here Comes Your Man (4AD, Doolittle)
THE KNACK: Your Number Or Your Name (Rhino, Proof: The Very Best Of The Knack)
THE HOLLIES: Look Through Any Window [French lyric version] (EMI, Clarke, Hicks & Nash Years)
--
NICK FRATER: Sunshine After Rain (Kool Kat Musik, Full-Fathom Freight-Train)
THE EASYBEATS: Friday On My Mind (Albert, Absolute Archives)
JOHNNY JOHNSON & THE BANDWAGON: Let's Hang On (Kent, Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache)
R.E.M.: Driver 8 (IRS, Fables Of The Reconstruction)
NEZROCK: St. Valentine's Day Massacre (nezrok.bandcamp.com)
THE SUCCESSFUL FAILURES: Because We're Ghosts (FDR, Saratoga)
--
THE SMITHEREENS: Behind The Wall Of Sleep (Capitol, Blown To Smithereens)
WARREN ZEVON: A Certain Girl (Rhino, Genius)
THE SPEED OF SOUND: I See You (Big Stir, single)
SPLIT ENZ: History Never Repeats (A & M, History Never Repeats)
THE BANDWAGON: When Love Has Gone Away (Kent, Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache)
CROWDED HOUSE: Don't Dream It's Over (Capitol, Crowded House)
--
THE MIDNIGHT CALLERS: State Of Me (themidnightcallers.com)THE RASPBERRIES: I Wanna Be With You (RPM, Power Pop Volume One)
JIM BASNIGHT: Best Lover In The World (Precedent, Not Changing)
MICHAEL CARPENTER: That's Alright By Me (Not Lame, VA: Full Circle)
JOHNNY JOHNSON & HIS BANDWAGON: In The Bad Bad Old Days (Before You Loved Me) (Kent, Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache)
MATTHEW SWEET & SUSANNA HOFFS: Different Drum (Shout Factory, Under The Covers Vol. 1)
--
JOHNNY JOHNSON & HIS BANDWAGON: Sweet Inspiration (Kent, Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache)
TOMMY JAMES & THE SHONDELLS: Mirage (Rhino, Anthology)
THE GOALLTHEWAYS: Silly Girl (Big Stir, single)
JOAN ARMATRADING: Me Myself I (A & M, Me Myself I)
MERLE HAGGARD: Mama Tried (Capitol, Hag)

THE NERVES: Walking Out On Love (Alive, One Way Ticket)
JOHNNY JOHNSON & HIS BANDWAGON: Blame It (On The Pony Express) (Kent, Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache)
THE BEATLES: All You Need Is Love (Apple, 1)
BUCK OWENS & HIS BUCKAROOS: Buckaroo (Rhino, 21 # 1 Hits)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Tonight On THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO



Sometimes a great pop act just doesn't get its due. An American soul group that began in the '60s as The Bandwagon (later Johnny Johnson & the Bandwagon) recorded some terrific sides, but never troubled the Billboard Hot 100. They had better success in England (three Top 10 hits from 1968 to 1970), but they deserved better. TIRnRR will prove it tonight, as Johnny Johnson & the Bandwagon will be this week's Featured Performers. We also have NEW music, from The Cowsills, Micky Dolenz, The Jellybricks, West Coast Music Club, Nezrock, Nick Frater, The Midnight Callers, and The Speed Of Sound. This bandwagon's set to roll. Hop on Sunday night, 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/

Saturday, October 26, 2019

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Sheena Is A Punk Rocker (revised chapter)

A print by Todd Alcott, conjuring a phony pulp paperback. THIS is awesome.
As a recurring feature at Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do), my series The Greatest Record Ever Made! celebrates its third anniversary tomorrow. All this year, I've been working on translating the concept into a book, The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), combining some previous entries with brand-new chapters written for the book.

The Ramones' "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" was covered as a GREM! blog post on November 22, 2017. I have slightly revamped and expanded the original piece, adding material from a separate essay to form the new version as it will eventually appear in my book. Here it is.

An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!



THE RAMONES: Sheena Is A Punk Rocker

Dangerous. Deplorable. Degenerate. The Ramones were supposed to be dirty, filthy punks, likely to slit your throat for spare change, or just for kicks. They were loud. They were sloppy. They were beneath contempt.

And they were one of the greatest pop bands in the world.

That seeming incongruity has never quite resolved itself. In certain circles, one risks immediate scorn for the sin of considering The Ramones a power pop band. But it was never a sin. It was a revelation.

Perhaps it shouldn't have been such a surprise. If we hadn't been so distracted by the noise, the sheer velocity, and the off-putting lyrics about recreational glue-sniffing and chainsaw massacrees, we would have noticed that even The Ramones' earliest records carried influences beyond the obvious sturm und drang of The Stooges; many (if not most) of The Ramones' short 'n' sharp album tracks believed they were 45s. Definitely most. Maybe all. A few of them were released as singles--"Blitzkrieg Bop," "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,""I Remember You," "Swallow My Pride"--but if Ramones records could talk, the bulk of their LP track brethren would have likewise self-identified as 7" slabs o' vinyl destined for playback at 45 rpm.

45s.

It's not about the format; it's the spirit, the attitude, what's in the grooves even if there aren't any literal grooves, from mp3 air to compact disc to cassette, eight-track, and of course vinyl. If we had listened more deliberately to The Ramones, even as they declared their preference for huffing Carbona Spot Remover rather than glue, we would have heard singles. Pop singles. Fodder for jukeboxes and transistor radio, meant to be played alongside girl-group 45s and British Invasion 45s and bubblegum 45s and MotownThe Monkees, and Jan and Dean. The Ramones specialized in 45s; most of those 45s just happened to be album tracks instead.

But it was an actual 45rpm single--"Sheena Is A Punk Rocker"--that I still regard as the record that changed my life.

We've already talked about Phonograph Record Magazine, how that tabloid's coverage of punk rock permanently shanghaied my rockin' pop consciousness in 1977. PRM seemed to me like a communiqué from another world, and its descriptions of The Ramones captivated me. They seemed like they must be horrible, frightening, almost criminal.  They also seemed like they might be the most exciting rock 'n' roll band imaginable.  I was scared of them, and I was hooked on 'em body and soul before I ever heard a note of their music.

Off to college that fall, I heard The Ramones on campus radio and I bought my first Ramones record, that 45 of "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker," a song I still had not heard. I didn't even own a stereo at the time, so I had to wait until I was home for Thanksgiving break to finally hear the damned thing.

It played.  And I stared at the record, watching it spin as it played.  The record ended.

And I got up and played it again.  And again.  And again.  And several more agains after that. The damned thing is less than three minutes long, but I listened to it for at least twenty minutes, maybe more. No other single song, before or since, ever had such an immediate and durable impact on me. Nothing else ever came close.

I swear to God, I suddenly felt taller. Colors seemed brighter. The confusing world of a seventeen-year-old all at once…well, nothing can make sense of a seventeen-year-old's world, but clarity seemed within reach. I had never heard anything like this record! I played it again. And I played it again.

It sounded like The Beach Boys, like the AM pop music that I always loved, and continued to love. But it was faster, fuller, innately louder even at low volume. 

And the world changed. Everything was different. Nothing was the same.  

About a month after first hearing "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker," I wrote my first essay on rock 'n' roll music, extolling the virtues of punk rock in general and The Ramones in particular.  It was published as an emeritus contribution in my high school newspaper.  My essay became the focal point for the nascent punk scene at my alma mater.  A few months later, Bomp! magazine published a special issue devoted to power pop, a label that seemed to perfectly describe the type of music I loved the most; Bomp! even listed "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" as one of power pop's definitive records.

In between, in January of 1978, I saw a local punk/power pop group called The Flashcubes, and my fate was sealed. I'd found my music, and I would preach its virtues forevermore. Many factors led to this point, from the British Invasion and its aftermath in the '60s, to my vicarious fascination with punk via Phonograph Record Magazine.  But it was "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" that accomplished the change. 

Looking back, the pristine pop of "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" shouldn't really have been any kind of shock. Nonetheless: in 1977, no one was prepared for it. No one.

When Joey Ramone first demoed the song for Sire Records boss Seymour Stein, Stein freakin' flipped out. We have to record this song NOW!!! Stein knew a hit when he heard it.  The Ramones were dispatched to the studio, and the "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" 45 was rush-released in July of '77. Its seemingly effortless evocation of an urban East Coast version of The Beach Boys was indescribably catchy, effervescent, and fun. 

The single's real-world Billboard chart peak of # 81 was probably a disappointment to Stein--it certainly sounded like a Top 40 smash, or better--but it did chart. No previous Ramones record had done that, nor had any other previous punk or new wave or label du jour artist managed it either. One suspects the perceived image of those dangerous, degenerate punks scared away the superstitious and cowardly lot we know as radio programmers. It was a missed opportunity to reclaim the glory of rock 'n' roll radio at its very best. It wasn't the slick corporate product against which punk rebelled, nor was it the angry nihilism that punk was known for; it was something else altogether: it was pure glee. For those who heard "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" with open ears in 1977, it was a magical welcome from a brighter, better pop world. 

It was for me, anyway. 

The other day, I heard someone on the radio refer to "I Wanna Be Sedated" as the definitive Ramones track. Some would argue passionately on behalf of "Blitzkrieg Bop" instead, and either would present a compelling, convincing case. But only one record changed my life. The Greatest Record Ever Made? Oh yes. The kids are all hopped and ready to go. New York City really has it all. And Sheena is the queen of the urban jungle. Pop music conquers all. 



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Fans of pop music will want to check out Waterloo Sunset--Benefit For This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, a new pop compilation benefiting SPARK! Syracuse, the home of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & CarlTIR'N'RR Allstars--Steve StoeckelBruce GordonJoel TinnelStacy CarsonEytan MirskyTeresa CowlesDan PavelichIrene Peña, Keith Klingensmith, and Rich Firestone--offer a fantastic new version of The Kinks' classic "Waterloo Sunset." That's supplemented by eleven more tracks (plus a hidden bonus track), including previously-unreleased gems from The Click BeetlesEytan MirskyPop Co-OpIrene PeñaMichael Slawter (covering The Posies), and The Anderson Council (covering XTC), a new remix of "Infinite Soul" by The Grip Weeds, and familiar TIRnRR Fave Raves by Vegas With RandolphGretchen's WheelThe Armoires, and Pacific Soul Ltd. Oh, and that mystery bonus track? It's exquisite. You need this. You're buying it from Futureman.


(And you can still get our 2017 compilation This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4, on CD from Kool Kat Musik and as a download from Futureman Records.)

Hey, Carl's writin' a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 100 essays (and then some) about 100 tracks, plus two bonus instrumentals, each one of 'em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1).