Friday, January 31, 2014

Curtain Call: Talking Heads From 1979

Today is the last stop on our tour of 1979, and it's a doozy. Let's go to Nov. 17 at the 3,200-seat Capitol Theatre in Passaic, N.J. The venue was torn down two decades ago, but I have read many good things about it. Talking Heads are wrapping up a lengthy U.S. tour here, and the show will be recorded to become part of the live double album 'The Name of the Band is Talking Heads.' This is, perhaps, my all-time favorite live album. The band will forever be remembered for another live album, the commercial juggernaut 'Stop Making Sense,' and that recording certainly has its charms, but 'The Name of the Band is Talking Heads' chronicles tours from 1977-1981. So, the defense rests.

If I could only have one Talking Heads album, I would choose 'More Songs About Buildings and Food.' I prefer that sound to when the band expanded to a 10 piece on the road in 1980 and 1981. Here are a couple from of my favorites from that era. If you have never owned 'The Name of the Band is Talking Heads' and can't find it used on vinyl somewhere, I highly recommend the reissue Rhino helped put out in 2004. The two-disc set significantly expands the running time from 73 minutes to a whopping 141, and the evolution from tour to tour is something to behold.

Talking Heads - Artists Only (Live) (mp3)
Talking Heads - Stay Hungry (Live) (mp3)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Curtain Call: Rockpile From 1979

The time machine has a couple of stops left in her, and today we land at "the Palace" in Boston on July 6, 1979. What a great time to see Rockpile. It's a prolific time period for Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, Billy Bremner and Terry Williams. The band released Edmunds' 'Repeat When Necessary' earlier in the year, and Lowe's classic sophomore solo album, 'Labour of Lust,' just hit the shelves.

Now, I'm partial to Lowe's work, particularly his first two albums, so those are the songs we'll listen to today. The exception is "Crawling From the Wreckage," a new song from Edmunds' record that was written by Graham Parker. Speaking of Parker, Martin Belmont, a founding member of the Rumour, makes an appearance during this set for "They Call It Rock," and you'll be able to pick out his distinctive guitar work in a heartbeat. This show is a soundboard recording that was broadcast live on WBCN radio. I have always wanted to be at this one. Everyone sounds like they are having such a blast. Let's join the fun.

Last stop: Capitol Theatre, Passaic, N.J., Nov. 17, 1979

Rockpile - So It Goes (Live) (mp3)
Rockpile - Switchboard Susan (Live) (mp3)
Rockpile - Crawling From the Wreckage (Live) (mp3)
Rockpile - Born Fighter (Live) (mp3)
Rockpile - So Fine (Live) (mp3)
Rockpile - The Call It Rock (Live) (mp3)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Curtain Call: The Police From 1979

As the years have passed, and Sting's solo catalog has grown, it has become more and more difficult to remember all that was good about those early years of the Police, but I hope this trip to the Bottom Line in New York, circa April 4, 1979, is a reminder of the trio's punk-rock attitude. I think this would be the perfect period to see them. The band was trying out songs from its soon-to-be released sophomore album, 'Reggatta de Blanc,' and the re-released "Roxanne" was peaking on the Billboard Hot 100 (after failing to make a dent a year earlier). The fellas were a hungry unit, traveling around America in a van, making radio and record-store appearances and generally doing all of the grunt work of an indie band. Tough to imagine, isn't it?

These two songs are taken from 'Propaganda,' the same A&M sampler I highlighted last time when we checked out the Joe Jackson show. You probably know "Next to You" well. If you aren't familiar with "Landlord," which would show up as the B-side to "Message in a Bottle" later in the year, here is a great example of that punk-rock aesthetic I wrote about earlier. Check out some of the lyrics:

I don't want to rent your house from you
I don't know how you can expect me to
I ain't moving 'cause I know my rights
Too many homeless on the streets at night

You own a street and a block of flats
You earn your living like the other rats
You've no morality what do you care
You deal in poverty you buy despair

I ain't moving 'till the bailiff comes
I've got no weapons, gonna get me some
I ain't moving 'till the bailiff comes
I've got no weapons, gonna get me some

You go and call yourself a business man
You're just a parasite on Phylosan
You're just a middle-class middle-aged shit
You sold your granny for a three-penny bit

Amazing when you consider Sting now owns seven houses, including a castle, and he rents out his sprawling Tuscan estate to the jet set. Yes, he has become a landlord of sorts. Here is a review of the Police's two-night stint at the Bottom Line from a music critic at the New York Times, and if you can't find 'Propaganda' used on vinyl anywhere, I believe you can also find these two songs on 'Message in a Box.'

The Police - Landlord (Live) (mp3)
The Police - Next to You (Live) (mp3)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Curtain Call: Joe Jackson From 1979

I respect the talent of Joe Jackson more than just about any musician out there. I really enjoy his big-band work, film scores and pop music, but those first three records he did with Gary Sanford, Graham Maby and David Houghton are his real tour de force. That's why I'm taking the time machine to the Whisky a Go Go, Hollywood, May 12. There is no way I'm missing this lineup while I'm here in 1979. These songs are taken from the A&M sampler 'Propaganda.' "Come On" is a Chuck Berry song that also appeared as a B-side to the "I'm the Man" single... and I'm sure "Throw It Away" needs no introduction.

Incidentally, this quartet reunited a decade ago on 'Volume 4.' The first run of that album included a second disc of classic live songs as recorded on their 2002 tour of the UK. I don't think it's hyperbole to say they sounded as good as they ever did.

Next stop: The Bottom Line, New York, April 4, 1979.

Joe Jackson - Throw It Away (Live) (mp3)
Joe Jackson - Come On (Live) (mp3)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Curtain Call: Elvis Costello From 1979

I really enjoyed checking out Buzzcocks at Hammersmith Odeon, but now let's set the time machine for Bethlehem, Penn., on April 12. The campus of Lehigh University should be hoppin'. Elvis Costello & the Attractions are in town promoting songs from 'Armed Forces' and trying out some new tunes too. I'm not real big on bootlegs. I seem to buy enough of them, but they sure spend a lot of time on the shelf collecting dust. This show is an exception. There is an awful lot of treble on this recording, but this seems to bring Steve Nieve's keyboard to the forefront... which is just fine with me. Costello's scorn for the students is palpable. Perhaps my favorite line from him, "Look at that lot over there. Not a doctor's degree among 'em."

Check out "Girls Talk," the rarely played Costello-penned composition made famous this same year by Dave Edmunds. The guitar on "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea" is phenomenal, and with "High Fidelity" you get a taste of what 'Get Happy!!' might have sounded like if Costello had not scrapped his take on new wave for a much more satisfying Stax/R&B sound. Then enjoy one of the my all-time favorite encores ever put to tape.

Next stop: May 12 at Hollywood's Whisky a Go Go!

Elvis Costello & the Attractions - Girls Talk (Live) (mp3)
Elvis Costello & the Attractions - (I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea (Live) (mp3)
Elvis Costello & the Attractions - High Fidelity (Live) (mp3)
Elvis Costello & the Attractions - Radio Radio (Live) (mp3)
Elvis Costello & the Attractions - Pump It Up (Live) (mp3)
Elvis Costello & the Attractions - You Belong to Me (Live) (mp3)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Curtain Call: Buzzcocks From 1979

Since, in our last installment, I went to the trouble of getting out the time machine to take in that XTC show from Down Under, I figured I may as well see a few more of my favorite bands while I'm here in 1979. So, let's swing by the Hammersmith Odeon on March 31. The incomparable Martin Rushent recorded this concert for Pete Shelley and his pals, and much later it became the 'Entertaining Friends' album. Sadly, it seems to be physically out of print, but it can still be purchased as a download. Here are a couple of my favorites from the Buzzcocks' canon. Next stop is Bethlehem, Penn., on April 12. Do you have any idea who played that night?

Buzzcocks - Everybody's Happy Nowadays (Live) (mp3)
Buzzcocks - What Do I Get? (mp3) (Live)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Curtain Call: XTC From 1979

I know I'm in the minority, but back in 2011 I professed my love for Barry Andrews and the manic keyboard-heavy sounds of early XTC here and here. One of my time-machine dreams would be to see a live show with that incarnation of the band. That's not to say seeing them after Andrews left would be all that bad either... as today's selection from soon after Andrews' defection suggests.

Almost from the beginning, XTC was big in Australia. They got quite a bit of airplay on radio station 2JJ out of Sydney and on the national show "Countdown," the most popular TV program in Australian history. So, from July 21 to Aug. 17, 1979, XTC went Down Under for the first time. This encore is taken from a July 20 radio broadcast at the Marconi Club in Sydney (although the encore didn't make the airwaves). The "Atom Medley" is "Into the Atom Age," "Hang on to the Night" and "Neon Shuffle" all wrapped up in less than seven minutes (and in the dark to boot as the power kept going out at the club). These 'White Music' songs sound great, even without Andrews, and the stage banter alone does make you wonder how many wonderful performances we could have had if Andy Partridge could have overcome the stage fright that ended all live shows for XTC just a few short years later.

You can find "Atom Medley" on the "Coat of Many Cupboards" box set. It's a great four-disc collection of rarities for fans that already have the studio albums.

XTC - Atom Medley (mp3)

Friday, January 10, 2014

12 Inches of Love: 'Looking For Atlantis'

Consistently spinning 'Crimson/Red' these past months has had me on a quite a Prefab Sprout kick. I don't have too many of the band's "rarities"... 'Steve McQueen' and 'Jordan: The Comeback' (and even 'Swoon' a bit these days) are my go-to records... but I did recently pull out the old crappy USB turntable to transfer this wonderfully done extended version of "Looking for Atlantis." You get nearly three-and-a-half minutes more than the version on 'Jordan: The Comeback,' and producer Thomas Dolby added some great touches without overwhelming the original song. "Looking for Atlantis" was the first single from the album and another in a long line of modestly successful singles in the UK (No. 51 in 1990). If you like Paddy & Co., I think you're really going to dig this one.

Prefab Sprout - Looking For Atlantis (Extended) (mp3)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Party Like It's 1984

Things got a little out of hand on New Year's Eve. If you're a regular reader then you know I spend that festive evening the same way every year... by watching my favorite live show of all time. No, not "Dick Clark's Rockin' Eve." That would just be silly. Who needs to contemplate the future when you can live in the past? I pull out Big Country's Dec. 31, 1983 homecoming concert from Glasgow's Barrowland. Loser? How dare you. Would a loser time the video cassette just right so he could ring in the new year with Stuart and the lads like it was in real time? Don't answer that. And you can quit laughing about VHS, smart guy. I have had it on DVD since it was reissued in 2009.

Anyway, back to the 2013 festivities. The streak is over. For the first time since 1990 I didn't watch that concert. I... are you sitting down? I watched Big Country's Dec. 31, 1984 concert from the Edinburgh Playhouse.

Yes, I'm a wild man.

The show is part of Big Country's 'At the BBC' box. I have been watching and listening to that four-disc set for months now, but I purposely skipped that show so I could see it for the first time on New Year's Eve. I'm really glad I did. Although the atmosphere of the Barrowland show is better, it was really cool to see the band perform songs from 'Steeltown' only a few months after the album was released. Here are three clips... from the beginning, middle and end of the concert. The clock strikes 12 between "Where the Rose Is Sown" and "Come Back to Me." Sadly, the Dundonald & Dysart Pipe Band wasn't part of the celebration this time, but you can see them at the Barrowland show I added below. I hope you have a great 2014!

...And here is the bagpipe brigade from the Dec. 31, 1983 show. They come in after "The Storm" at around the 4:45 mark. Truly, one of the most interesting sights ever at a rock show.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Wondermints Watch

I would give just about anything for a new studio album from Wondermints, it's going on 14 years, fellas, but I'll take whatever I can get. I hope there are a few of you out there who care that the band has backed Eric Carmen, he of Raspberries fame, on a new song called "Brand New Year." It will take you about 40 seconds of listening before their signature sound kicks in and knocks you out. This song will eventually make its way to 'The Essential Eric Carmen,' set for a March 11 release. I'm digging your optimism on this one, Mr. Carmen.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Some Favorite Songs From 2013

I think I'm coming down with something. Bloggers (and their readership) know it as list fatigue. I came up with this grand countdown of my 25 favorite songs from 2013, but now I just don't have the passion to sit here and format the whole thing. So, I'm going with an abbreviated idea that might be better since the list would have looked an awful lot like my best albums list anyway. I'll just tell you my most listened to single was David Bowie's "Where Are We Now?" The song seemed to drop from the heavens. I'll remember the day the video appeared (without warning) like some recall where they were the day Kennedy was shot. Sorry, that was in bad taste. Yet, I kept in there, didn't I?

"I Know It's Over" from Math and Physics Club was right behind Bowie on the list. It takes me back to playing 'London 0 Hull 4' in Mom and Dad's basement circa 1986. 'English Electric' was my top album, and if I only had a few minutes and needed an OMD fix, my go to in '13 was "Helen of Troy." Edwyn Collins really touched me with the ballad "It's a Reason." I could go on and on, but I have decided to nip it and give a brief list of the songs in my top 25 that didn't come from selections on my favorite albums list. Perhaps something here will be new to you and keep you from catching my dreaded list fatigue.

La Luz - "Brainwash"
I still haven't bought the debut full length from these Seattle gals, but I loved the '60s sounds from this non-album single.

Just Handshakes (We're British) - "London Bound"
Add this little synth-pop nugget to your next road-trip mix. Reminds me of early New Order.

Seabirds - "Real Tears"
Matinee has mined another precious jangly gem, this time from landlocked Nottingham of all places. It's as impressive a debut single as I heard all year.

The Primitives - "Lose the Reason"
I really enjoyed the covers album 'Echoes and Rhymes,' but it's nice to know they can still write perfect pop songs after all these years.

Parquet Courts - "Stoned and Starving"
I'm already regretting the exclusion of 'Light Up Gold' on my favorite albums list. These guys definitely jam econo.

Dream Boys - "Born Yesterday"
I saved the best for last. The self-titled album from this L.A. paisley-pop outfit probably should have made my list too. For now, give this ode to c86 a sample.