10 Songs is a weekly list of ten songs that happen to be on my mind at the moment. The lists are usually dominated by songs played on the previous Sunday 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 # 1180. This show is available as a podcast.
THE RAMONES: Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
As tangent to the breathless hype for my new book Gabba Gabba Hey! A Conversation With The Ramones (https://rarebirdlit.com/gabba-gabba-hey-a-conversation-with-the-ramones-by-carl-cafarelli/), we begin a three-week celebration of THE RAMONES AT THE MOVIES, spinning four film-related Ramones tracks within each of the three playlists.
Obviously, that starts with material from the Ramones' only movie, 1979's Rock 'n' Roll High School. We won't even get to the title track until next week, and we're giving short shrift to "Teenage Lobotomy" (heard in the film's epic exploding mice sequence, but omitted from our RAMONES AT THE MOVIES celebration because, um...I forgot. Oops. I'm a middle-age lobotomy!).
The celebration has to kick off with the first Ramones song heard in Rock 'n' Roll High School, as the film's heroine (played by P. J. Soles) introduces herself--I'm Riff Randell, and THIS is Rock 'n' Roll High School!--and places stylus to groove. Rocket To Russia. "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker." The opening credits roll.
When I saw the movie for the first time, in a crowded nightclub filled with fans digging the film and champin' at the bit for what was gonna follow the screening (live sets from the Flashcubes and the Ramones themselves), there was one on-screen credit that got the biggest cheer from all in attendance.
Yep. The kids were all hopped and ready to go. More cheers would follow. It was one hell of a great night.
THE MOSQUITOS: I'm So Ashamed
The Mosquitos were a simply fantastic Long Island rock 'n' roll combo in the 1980s, and I regret I never had an opportunity to see them perform. I first heard them when their track "Darn Well" appeared on Garage Sale!, the nonpareil garage compilation cassette issued in 1985 by the combined forces of ROIR Records and Goldmine magazine. Garage Sale! looms large in my legend for hooking me into the world of Goldmine, a publication for which I wound up doing freelance writing for twenty years, 1986 to 2006 (a story told here).
"Darn Well" was ultimately more representative of the Mosquitos' garage-pop vibe than the slightly slicker recordings found on their only official release, the 1985 five-song EP That Was Then, This Is Now! I bought that EP some time in the '80s, loved it, but like most folks, I was introduced to its title track via a cover version recorded by someone else.
The Monkees (or at least Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork of the Monkees) took their version of "That Was Then, This Is Now" to Billboard's Top Twenty in 1986. In a perfect world, that would be just a cool footnote to the Mosquitos' career; instead it was the closest the group ever came to a headline. The Mosquitos broke up, remembered only by a lucky few.
Now, at long last, the mighty Kool Kat Musik is doing its part to preserve and proclaim the Mosquitos' underrated legacy. A new 2-CD archival set called This Then Are The Mosquitos gathers demos, live tracks, and gems of all sorts in a package to delight fans both old and new. I preordered my copy as soon as Kool Kat made the announcement. You're going to be hearing a lot from the Mosquitos on TIRnRR.
CINDY LAWSON: Let's Pretend
I've been listening to pop music with willful obsession for decades. It's why I co-host a radio show, and the sweetly addictive nature of my obsession is why I write about singers and songs on (or not on) the radio.
And I'm still discovering new and new-to-me stuff all of the time. In the '90s, Cindy Lawson was in a group called the Clams. The Clams completely evaded my radar; I only heard them for the first time a few days ago. My belated discovery of the Clams came about because I stumbled across Lawson's swell "Let's Pretend" on a sampler album, decided to play it, and then felt compelled to find out about more of her work. Obsession in play! Cindy Lawson makes her TIRnRR debut this week. The Clams make theirs next week.
THE RAMONES: I Just Want To Have Something To Do
The Ramones' first on-screen appearance in Rock 'n' Roll High School finds them lip-syncing "I Just Want To Have Something To Do," the juggernaut opening cut from their 1978 album Road To Ruin. Johnny Ramone laughed when I told him this was the greatest track KISS never did, and I for damned sure meant it as a compliment.
ALICE COOPER: School's Out
The Greatest Record Ever Made!
(And, as much as I loved the song as an adolescent and teen in the early '70s, the first time I owned a copy of it was when I bought the Rock 'n' Roll High School soundtrack LP.)
THELMA HOUSTON AND PRESSURE COOKER: I've Got The Music In Me
I know I invest a lot of time and space complaining about incredible records that shoulda been hits but, y'know...weren't. Some stellar-sounding acts never even got a small taste of the big time. Some managed to get a hit, but stalled in that status as one-hit wonders. I've griped about the Flirtations in recent weeks, and Thelma Houston is yet another one-hit wonder who deserved repeat success. Her lone big number was her disco remake of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' "Don't Leave Me This Way," but there is still more greatness lurking in the Thelma Houston catalog. She did an absolutely struttin' rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash," and this week's playlist finds her puttin' the Kiki in her Dee for a cooking take on "I've Got The Music In Me."
Oh, and Thelma's hit is also awesome on its own merit. We'll give it a spin next week.
THE RAMONES: I Want You Around
I know we don't think of the Ramones as balladeers, but I tell ya, there's a handful of absolutely killer sing 'n' sway tunes among the group's prerequisite cretin hops and Blitzkrieg bops, especially in the '70s. "I Want You Around" would have been worthy of the Searchers, but even those British Invasion stalwarts couldn't have improved on the Ramones' original.
The song's spot in Rock 'n' Roll High School marks the Ramones' second appearance on-screen, as Riff Randell smokes a joint and fantasizes that Joey Ramone is in her room, singing to her as Johnny sits by her bed and strums his guitar (first an acoustic, which magically transforms into an electric), with Marky Ramone drumming in her back yard (and eventually crammed into her bathroom) and a soaking-wet Dee Dee Ramone playing bass in her shower. The scene is goofy and charming at the same time, and a perfect illustration of both the Ramones' innate pop appeal and why Rock 'n' Roll High School is one of THE all-time great rock 'n' roll movies.
(Don't believe me? Fine. Let's cede the lectern to Marshall Crenshaw, who wrote in the book Hollywood Rock, "Despite what you might think, it is possible for human beings to achieve perfection. Take this movie: Every joke is funny, every song is fantastic, and every frame is shot according to God's will...."
THE FLASHCUBES FEATURING RANDY KLAWON: Get The Message
The good folks at the superfab Big Stir Records are getting set to whoop it up on behalf of the label's sixth anniversary. HuzZAH!, we say. Big Stir's sixth anniversary year will include the release of a new album by Syracuse's own power pop powerhouse the Flashcubes. Yes, we've heard it. And yes oh YES, it's gonna rock your pantaloons off. Stay tuned. Happy Anniversary, Big Stir!
THE RAMONES: Questioningly
Another sublime ballad, this one from Road To Ruin. In Rock 'n' Roll High School, "Questioningly" plays on the radio as Riff Randell tries to call in and win tickets to the Ramones' sold-out concert.
In the movie, the Ramones are the biggest rock 'n' roll stars on the whole friggin' planet. In our stupid real world, it would have bordered on science-fiction for a radio station to play "Questioningly." I think the made-up world got this one right.
THE MONKEES: That Was Then, This Is Now
Awright. I'm nearly as big a Monkees fan as I am a Ramones and Flashcubes fan. I give the Mosquitos the edge here in doing their own song, but I love the Monkees' version, too. In '86, it was a dream come true for the Monkees to return to the charts, for me to have a chance to see them in concert, and to manage a record store and speak with kids who saw the Monkees on MTV and were eager to find out more, eager to own Monkees records. Then, now, whenever--that was something.
|Obsessions unite: the late Peter Tork with Marky Ramone and Micky Dolenz in 2013|
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Carl's new book Gabba Gabba Hey! A Conversation With The Ramones is now available, courtesy of the good folks at Rare Bird Books. Gabba Gabba YAY!! https://rarebirdlit.com/gabba-gabba-hey-a-conversation-with-the-ramones-by-carl-cafarelli/
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.
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