Friday, December 4, 2020

10 SONGS: 12/4/2020

10 Songs is a weekly list of ten songs that happen to be on my mind at the moment. Given my intention to usually write these on Mondays, the lists are often dominated by songs played on the previous night's edition of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl. The idea was inspired by Don Valentine of the essential blog I Don't Hear A Single.

This week's edition of 10 Songs draws exclusively from the playlist for This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio # 1053.

BOW WOW WOW: Go Wild In The Country

TIRnRR is on a modest Bow Wow Wow kick, with this week's spin of "Go Wild In The Country" preceded by "Do You Wanna Hold Me?" a couple of weeks back, another ***SPOILER ALERT!*** BWW track planned for this coming Sunday, and more to follow in future weeks. During this week's show, "Go Wild In The Country" inspired our friend and fellow SPARK! DJ Rich Firestone to note, "Somehow at the time, I didn't realize how much fun Bow Wow Wow was!" Well, we're here to help, Rich. We're here to help.

DESMOND CHILD AND ROUGE: The Night Was Not

The 1980 film Times Square is better known for its soundtrack than for the movie itself. In the fabulous rock 'n' roll movie book Hollywood Rock (which was edited by Marshall Crenshaw), Andy Langer wrote, "Even mentioning this movie seems to dignify it unnecessarily." Oof. 

I finally saw this unmentionable flick for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and I actually enjoyed it on its own misshapen terms. It's not a good film by any means, not even in the sense of being so bad it's good. It's...just not good. Yet I'm glad I watched it; I wish I'd had an opportunity to see it when it was new, and I wonder what my twenty-year-old self would have thought of it at the time. In 1980, I lived in a small college town with not all that much to do if you didn't have a car to get somewhere else. I mean, there was drinking, but other than that. So I saw just about every non-horror movie that played in the village, from The Muppet Movie to The Gong Show MovieSuperman II to Buck Rogers In The 25th CenturyHollywood Knights to Goodbye Emmanuelle, For Your Eyes Only to Breaking Away. Times Square would have fit right in. 

Seeing Times Square forty years after the fact is a jarringly out-of-context experience. I am most assuredly not twenty years old anymore. But I was able to turn off my brain and ride the mild surf of its undemanding melodrama. Plus Tim Curry's in it. 

The soundtrack requires no qualification; it's as essential now as it was then, and I'll surrender my copy of it when it's pried from my cold dead hands. Suzi Quatro. The Pretenders. Roxy Music. Gary Numan. Talking Heads. Joe Jackson. XTC. THE RAMONES! And those are just the highlights of the first record in this two-LP set, and not even counting "Flowers In The City" by David Johansen and Robin Johnson, a cut I've previously described as one of five great movies songs from films I either didn't like or never saw.

The soundtrack album also includes "The Night Was Not" by Desmond Child and Rouge, a track that never moved me and which my memory cast aside. Hearing it play during the movie made something click, and I suddenly connected with the song for the first time. And that was sufficient motivation for Desmond Child and Rouge to make their TIRnRR debut. These things take time.

GENERATION X: Dancing With Myself

Beware the would-be hipster who whines, "I liked [insert artist's name here] before anyone else did, but then [applicable personal pronoun] sold out, got popular, and started to suck!" Humph. Worst would-be hipster ever. So yeah, take it with a grain of salt when I say I never cared for Billy Idol's successful solo career, but I loved him when he was fronting Generation X in the late '70s and very early '80s. Hipster? Me? It's you who say I am.

I really wanted to like Idol. Listen, I'm in favor of artists achieving success and recognition, getting paid, and being able to continue the divine art of creating. But "Eyes Without A Face," "Rebel Yell," "Flesh For Fantasy," "Hot In The City," and his meatball cover of Tommy James and the Shondells' "Mony Mony" mostly left me cold. I liked "White Wedding" a little bit, especially the guitar hook. The only one of Idol's solo successes that I really liked--loved--was "Dancing With Myself." 

Of course, when I first loved it, it was a Generation X single.

Technically, it was "Gen X," the truncated nom du bop used for the final material credited to the soon-to-disappear UK punk pop combo previously known as Generation X. Under whatever name, "Dancing With Myself" rocks, pops, 'n' percolates, a right worthy successor to earlier Generation X triumphs "Ready Steady Go," "Your Generation," and "King Rocker." The Billy Idol "Dancing With Myself" sounds the same to my ears, so if Idol re-recorded the Gen X track, he stuck with the blueprint with stunning fidelity. But what do I know anyway? Never trust a hipster.

THE KINKS: War Is Over

Last week on his SPARK! radio show Radio Deer Camp, the above-cited Rich Firestone played The Kinks' "To The Bone," a cut that has never been played on This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio. And we've played a lot of Kinks songs over the past 22 years! The song is the title track from a 1996 2-CD US version of a live Kinks album released as a single disc in the UK in '94. The US version adds several tracks, but omits "Waterloo Sunset" and "Autumn Almanac," forcing fans (like me) to buy both versions. The US set also adds the two studio tracks that are the final Kinks recordings issued to date; Rich just played "To The Bone" on Radio Deer Camp, and we played the other studio track ("Animal") on TIRnRR some time ago.

We still haven't played "To The Bone," but we did want to try to program a Kinks song that we hadn't played before. We picked "War Is Over," from 1989's UK Jive, which is my least favorite Kinks album. The song's fine. The album....

I was able to see The Kinks on the UK Jive tour. It was the third and final time I saw The Kinks in concert, and oddly enough the show occurred in the same week that I saw my first Rolling Stones concert. Kinks and Stones in a single week? Awrighty! 

My first Kinks show was in 1978, and it was awesome; I told that story here. Seeing them a second time at a mid '80s arena show in Buffalo was less special, but still The Kinks. The 1989 show was weird. It was staged in a gym at the State University of New York at Oswego; the arena show felt impersonal, and this felt, I dunno, somewhere in between, but still almost haphazardly disconnected. 

The show was sparsely attended, so lovely wife Brenda and I were able to get THISCLOSE to the stage where The Kinks--THE KINKS!!!--were playing. But it was the UK Jive tour. I have little memory of it. I can't believe I saw The Kinks at such close proximity, but that a combination of off-putting venue and a set list emphasizing a lesser album made the whole event seem so forgettable.

But it was THE KINKS...!

SUZI QUATRO: I May Be Too Young

Hey, have ya heard about Suzi from Baton Rouge?

Why, yes. Yes I have. Suzi herself was from Michigan rather than Louisiana, but the line quoted above was the first thing I ever heard her sing or say.

After Suzi Quatro had already cast teen me in her irresistible thrall via a glimpse of her image on the cover of Rolling Stone, "I May Be Too Young" was the first Suzi Q song I ever heard, an introduction made sweeter by the fact that it was a video performance on the British lip-synced pop music TV showcase Supersonic. Love at first sight, then swoon at first sight and sound.

THE RAMONES: I Wanna Be Sedated

The above-mentioned Times Square movie was produced by Robert Stigwood, who had managed Cream and The Bee Gees and had previously produced the hit films Saturday Night Fever and Grease, among others. One of the presumed goals of Times Square and its soundtrack was to do for punk and new wave what Saturday Night Fever had done for disco: ship a lot of units, annex a lot of radio playlists, sell a lot of records, and, y'know, make a buck or two million. It didn't happen. But I tell ya, watching the movie, and hearing "I Wanna Be Sedated" by my rockin' pop heroes The Ramones blastin' outta one of the main character's boom box a few times, I could only imagine what could have been. The Ramones with a hit record in 1980? I wanna live in that world.

THE BOB SEGER SYSTEM: 2 + 2 = ?

My eventual book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain an interlude about how much I loathe Bob Seger's hideous smash "Old Time Rock & Roll," followed immediately by a chapter extolling the GREM! virtues of Seger's (far) lesser-known 1968 punk snarler "2 + 2 = ?":

Maybe you never knew that Bob Seger made a punk record. If you didn't know, it's not your fault; neither music history nor Seger himself has seemed interested in the secret revelation of a dynamic, furious 1968 record called "2 + 2 = ?"

It's a difficult dichotomy to reconcile. Seger's mass-market reputation is built largely upon a series of popular mid-tempo heartland ballads and MOR rockers, beloved by many, despised by others. They are soundtracks for truck commercials, banal and inoffensive radio fare with the bland personality of margarine. Even as I type that, I really don't mean any disrespect to those who love "Like A Rock" or "Against The Wind" or even--shudder--"We've Got Tonight" and "Old Time Rock & Roll." There are no guilty pleasures in pop music. If you like something, a guy writing dismissively about your familiar favorites is unlikely to alter your tastes, nor should it. Dig what you wanna dig. Just, y'know, forgive me for cringing when I hear any of that stuff. I have to dig what I wanna dig, too...

...(And just in case you wonder, the title is pronounced "two plus two equals what." As in your likely answer when you hear it for the first time:  WHAT...?!)

TAVARES: It Only Takes A Minute


"It Only Takes A Minute" was a # 10 hit for
Tavares in 1975, the soul group's biggest pop hit. I'd like to say that I forgot how simply sublime this track is, but frankly I don't think I ever fully appreciated it in the first place. For me, as a teenage AM Top 40 listener, Tavares was just another sound on the radio, not, like, repulsive or something, but not particularly noteworthy. I don't know what the hell kind of crap I had muffling my ears when I was 15, but whatever it was, I'm happy it finally flushed out somewhere along the way. Sure, I was aware of "It Only Takes A Minute," "Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel" (Billboard # 15), and "More Than A Woman" (a mere # 32, but omnipresent because of its connection to Saturday Night Fever), but they didn't mean anything to me.

It was the late great Dick Clark who got the ball rolling in my belated discovery of Tavares. In (I think?) the '90s, VH1 was running selected, edited archival episodes of American Bandstand, and one such episode included Tavares lip-syncing their 1975 cover of The Edgar Winter Group's "Free Ride." I always liked EWG's original, and I'd never before heard Tavares' take on it, but that cover instantly became the definitive version for me. I bought a Tavares best-of CD just to get that song, and didn't even bother listening to the rest of the collection.

I pulled it out on a whim last week, just before Dana and I were set to discuss the week's TIRnRR playlist. And "It Only Takes A Minute" hit me, as it shoulda hit me--repeatedly!--when I was 15. Man, something sure shoulda hit me when I was 15. What an amazing track. What took me so long to realize it? IT'S ONLY SUPPOSED TO TAKE A MINUTE...!

THE TRAMMPS: Disco Inferno

The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack executed the retail alchemy of transmogrifying The Trammps' failed 1976 single "Disco Inferno" into a # 11 hit single in 1978. Yes, exactly the sort of scenario I wished Times Square could have done for The Ramones, except that "I Wanna Be Sedated" would gone all the way to # 1, the first of a string of chart-toppers for everyone's favorite Carbona-huffers. In, y'know, the world I wanna live in. 

But "Disco Inferno" is a great record, well deserving of its success. It was one of a handful of disco tracks at the time to break through my own anti-disco bias, and it also rates its own entry in The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1):

At the height of its popularity, disco was anathema to me. I had, at best, a superficial familiarity with soul and R & B to begin with, and little appreciation for it anyway. I don't know if an embrace of dance-oriented pop and Philly soul a bit earlier in my timeline might have made me more receptive to the throb of dat ole debbil disco, but the scene turned me off immediately. I liked The Bee Gees before "Jive Talkin'" and not after; I loathed KC and the Sunshine Band. And I despised discos; my few visits to those places were unpleasant and uncomfortable. It wasn't even just the music that turned me off; it was the whole atmosphere, the artificial vibe, the mix of the smug and smarmy, an insincere mating ritual without substance. I wouldn't have minded dancing, making out, maybe accompanying a dance partner elsewhere, but it all felt so...empty. Fake. I didn't even stick around long enough to try to talk to any girls. I just hated being there.

Later on, as the know-nothing Disco Sucks movement built its flammable foundation upon a bedrock of racism and homophobia, I began to wonder if I'd chosen the wrong side. The loudest parties chortling at the notion of smashing mirrored disco balls and stoking a bonfire of Saturday Night Fever soundtrack LPs were often just meatheads, the advance guard of reactionaries commencing the implementation of mourning in America. Me? I was a power-poppin' punk, and the Disco Sucks fascists hated me, too. Fuck them. I'd rather hear "Disco Inferno" than "Hotel California" or "Cat Scratch Fever" any freakin' day of the week. Burn those records instead. I heard somebody say, "Burn baby burn!" Yeah, I'd rather hear The Trammps....

DANNY WILKERSON AND LANNIE FLOWERS WITH ORBIS MAX: One Of A Kind

Turn. It. UP!!

Dana, Carl, Lannie Flowers, and Danny Wilkerson at SPARK! studio on 9/10/2019

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This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 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/ You can read about our history here.


The many fine This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin' pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:


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Carl's writin' a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1)will contain 165 essays about 165 tracks, 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). My weekly Greatest Record Ever Made! video rants can be seen in my GREM! YouTube playlist. And I'm on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

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