Friday, April 28, 2017

One More From a Wondermint

If you have found your way here today from JC's bellwether blog the (new) vinyl villain, here's a bonus to accompany the imaginary compilation album featuring the work of L.A. power-pop band Wondermints. Maybe it should be called a hidden track since the song is a rare one even among die-hard fans.

If you have followed the solo career of Brian Wilson, then you no doubt know about 'Sweet Insanity,' the follow-up album to Wilson's self-titled solo debut. The long player was to be released in 1991 but was shelved and never got a proper release. There are, of course, bootleg versions, and many Wilson aficionados like myself have mixed feelings about the songs. I think part of it comes down to not being able to shake knowing Dr. Eugene Landy was right there in the studio with him writing lyrics and playing bad cop, but that's a story for another day. This post is supposed to be about Wondermints.

In March 1992, years before their first album and many more years before they would meet Wilson and begin working with him, Darian Sahanaja and Nick Walusko of Wondermints were messing about with a four-track Tascam 246 cassette recorder. With help from Nick, Darian covered the 'Sweet Insanity' song "Do You Have Any Regrets?" In 1997, after Wondermints had started gaining traction, French label Pop The Balloon released the song as a 7" single. Darian slowed the tempo a bit, and even though this was on a four-track, I'll take his production over Wilson's take every time. Darian did, however, show us the bones of a great song were there.

Brian Wilson - "Do You Have Any Regrets?"
Darian - "Do You Have Any Regrets?"

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Great Ear of Jonathan Demme

When I heard filmmaker Jonathan Demme passed away, my first thoughts weren't about blockbuster films like 'Philadelphia' and 'Silence of the Lambs.' I thought about his passion for music. Demme clearly had a thing for Talking Heads, New Order, Robyn Hitchcock and the Feelies. That made him one of us, didn't it? Obviously, there was 'Stop Making Sense,' arguably one of the most important concert films in a generation, but don't forget his work behind the camera on memorable music videos like "A Perfect Kiss" by New Order and "Away" by the Feelies. You may remember the New Jersey group also had a terrific turn as the Willies, the fictional band that performed at the high school reunion during Demme's 1986 film 'Something Wild.' I showed this clip not too long ago, but it's worth another look.

Although the Feelies as the Willies didn't appear on the soundtrack to 'Something Wild' (what a shame!), it has been an album I have had for more than 30 years now, and one that I pull out often. In fact, I pulled it out today in Demme's honor. Here is the song that opens the film.

David Byrne With Celia Cruz - "Loco de Amor (Crazy for Love)"

One of Demme's most interesting uses of music in a feature was for the 2008 film 'Rachel Getting Married.' To call this one a drama is an understatement. It's a difficult watch but one that's worth the 113-minute investment. Rather than a traditional film score, all of the music was performed by musicians on-screen in nearly every scene, messing about in the background. Robyn Hitchcock and his pals were in the film as the band that performed at the wedding. Sounds crazy, but the music, or lack of music in some cases, was very effective. This song was in 'Rachel Getting Married' and would show up on Hitchcock's 2009 album 'Goodnight Oslo' too.

Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3 - "Up To Our Nex"

Rest in peace, Mr. Demme. You made the world a world a better place. Wherever you are, I hope they have a great record collection.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How Was Your Lunch?

If you sat at your cubicle and stared at a computer screen while nibbling at a bologna sandwich housed on a brown-paper bag doubling as a plate (obviously, I have never done that before!), you might find this post depressing. As for the rest you, I hope you can be happy for me.

The Wedding Present are in town, and they gave a free lunch-time performance at the studios of Seattle radio station KEXP. It was an all-too-brief performance that filled the 12-12:30 slot, but it was an intimate and interesting way to see the Weddoes for the very first time... ever. Yes, you read that correctly. That was a lot of noise at noon for the 75 or so that showed up, and highlights included "Rachel", my favorite from latest album 'Going, Going...', "End Credits", from previous album 'Valentina', and the following from the band's 1992 singles series. This one nearly left my ears bleeding. I have never heard four people make such a racket.

"Flying Saucer"

I'm no shutterbug, and I'm not one to have the camera phone out at a show, but I managed a couple of photos of Gedge and Co. during the soundcheck and after the last song (see below). Not sure even lobster on the French Riviera could top today's lunch. KEXP usually archives these performances. If this one shows up, I'll be sure to post it.


Band With KEXP DJ

Equipment Stage Left

Monday, April 24, 2017

Was '88 Great? Better Than I Remember

We should have seen this coming. A couple of years ago, to mark the 30th anniversary of NME's legendary 'C86' cassette, reissue royals Cherry Red Records released a deluxe edition of the tape, first on CD and later on vinyl. A year later, the label got creative and cashed in on the enormous popularity of the reissue by asking the simple question, what if NME had curated a 'C87'? The three-disc box set was great fun and popular enough to now imagine a wonderful world where a 'C88' also existed.

It's easy to say "enough is enough," but then you look at the tracklist and realize it was a very good year for indie pop. Clare and Matt were getting their feet wet at Sarah. Alan was on fire over at Creation. The best indie label of all time, Martin's Subway Organization, was peaking. Stephen's 53rd & 3rd was wrapping up. How could this compilation not be cool? Preorder 'C88' for a June 30th release.

1. ON TAPE – The Pooh Sticks
2. ELEPHANT STONE (7" Version) – The Stone Roses
3. WHERE DO YOU GO (Flexi Version) – The Popguns
4. (WILL NOBODY SAVE) LOUISE – The Man From Delmonte
5. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? (Molesworth Version) - The Charlottes
6. THE THINGS YOU WANT – The Snapdragons
7. A SHELTERED LIFE – Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine
8. ONE SUMMER – Moss Poles
9. LIES – Bridewell Taxis
10. DEFY THE LAW – The Orchids
11. HAPPY LIKE YESTERDAY – The Groovy Little Numbers
12. JULIE CHRISTIE – The Driscolls
13. HIGH – Choo Choo Train
14. CREMATION TOWN – The Poppyheads
16. SO HAPPY TO BE ALIVE – Thrilled Skinny
17. SISTER GOODBYE – The Prayers
18. ANORAK CITY – Another Sunny Day
19. SHE'S GONE – The Train Set
20. BARNOON HILL – Pacific
21. FOREVER HOLIDAY (Ediesta Version) – Blow-Up
22. MARY'S GARDEN – The Mock Turtles
23. THE PENNINE SPITTER – King Of The Slums
24. COLOURS AND SHAPES (Demo) – Pale Saints
25. THE BALLAD OF JET HARRIS – Apple Boutique


1. THE HILL – The House Of Love
2. DYING FOR IT – The Vaselines
3. KIRSTY – Bob
5. PLEASE RAIN FALL – The Sea Urchins
6. SHAME ON YOU – The Darling Buds
7. PRIZE – Kitchens Of Distinction
8. TOO MANY SHADOWS– The Heart Throbs
9. DO IT FOR FUN – The Bachelor Pad
10. THEY FELL FOR WORDS LIKE LOVE – Hangman's Beautiful Daughters
11. GIVING WAY TO TRAINS – Murrumbidgee Whalers
12. WHAT’S GOING DOWN – The Shamen
13. HEAVEN KNOWS – The Flatmates
14. SPELL IT OUT – The Waltones
15. MRS SUSAN SPENCE – The Wilderness Children
16. YESTERDAY – The Nivens
17. REAL WORLD – Baby Lemonade
18. VILLAGE GREEN – The Clouds
19. FIRE ESCAPE – Rote Kapelle
20. MAD DOGS – Emily
21. THE 18:10 TO YEOVIL JUNCTION – Bubblegum Splash
22. MICHAEL FUREY – Metro Trinity
23. THEME FROM COW – Inspiral Carpets


1. SUN, SEA, SAND – The Revolving Paint Dream
2. SURFAROUND – The Fizzbombs
3. PLASTER SAINT – The Church Grims
4. CRUSH THE FLOWERS (Demo) – The Wake
5. SUNSHINE THUGGERY – The Siddeleys
6. CLEAR - Whirl
7. A MILLION ZILLION MILES - Annie & The Aeroplanes
9. CINCINNATI – Holidaymakers
10. THE CAMERA LOVES ME – Would-Be-Goods
11. ANYWHERE BUT HOME – The Caretaker Race
12. WHO WORKS THE WEATHER – The Great Leap Forward
14. BYTHESEA ROAD – The Haywains
15. THE OLD ROAD OUT OF TOWN (12" Mix) – The Wishing Stones
16. SHAKE – The Corn Dollies
17. LAND OF GOLD – Bluetrain
19. APPLE OF MY EYE - Remember Fun
20. MORNING O'GRADY - Yeah Jazz
21. DON'T BURY ME YET – The Raw Herbs
22. CURRY CRAZY - Bad Dream Fancy Dress
23. ON MY WAY – The Claim
24. GLASTONBURY - Rodney Allen

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Original 'Almost Blue'

I dedicate this post to a country lawyer living the dream on the continent. Best of luck to Jonny Bottoms and the rest of the Ponderosa Aces as they begin to boot scoot their way across Europe. No, Jonny, 'Almost Blue' probably isn't considered country by your peers, but the original songs might just work for the fellas. Give my best to JC when you see him in Manchester.

Side 1
Hank Williams - "Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used to Do)?"
Patsy Cline - "Sweet Dreams"
Loretta Lynn - "Success"
The Flying Burrito Bros. - "I'm Your Toy"
Merle Haggard - "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down"
George Jones - "Brown to Blue"

Side 2
George Jones - "Good Year for the Roses"
Charlie Rich - "Sittin' and Thinkin'"
George Jones - "Colour of the Blues"
Emmylou Harris - "Too Far Gone"
Johnny Burnette Rock 'n' Roll Trio - "Honey Hush"
Gram Parsons - "How Much I Lied"

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Impending Releases From Elefant's Trunk

All ears should be pointed at Elefant Records right now. Let's start with Tracy Tracy, Paul and Tig. There are a few naysayers in this audience that won't agree, but this fan from way back in the Lazy days thinks the reformation of the Primitives, from "Echoes And Rhymes" to "Spin-O-Rama," has been nothing but a pleasure. That's why my excitement is building for the limited-edition four-song "New Thrills" 10" maxi, out May 5th. "I'll Trust The Wind" and "Squeak 'N' Squawk," the two songs on side 1, are full of the fuzz and fun that will take you back to 1986. On side 2, Paul takes a turn at lead vocals with the pure pop of "Oh Honey Sweet" before the set concludes with the surprising sounds of the genre-bending "Same Stuff." So very pleased the Primitives can still provide "New Thrills."

Thirty-one years after the single "E102," indie legend Duglas T. Stewart is still at it, searching for love in the form of the perfect pop song. Perhaps he's found it this time, somewhere on the new full-length album 'BMX Bandits Forever.' When you think of BMX Bandits, Stewart's current nine-year run on Elefant may not be what immediately springs to mind, but I'm arguing that you can safely set 2012 album 'In Space' next to 'C86' and 'Star Wars.' All I have heard from the new one are the songs below, but if "How Not to Care" is any indication, we are in for quite an experience. Dig out the tissues 'cause this song is a real heart breaker. 'BMX Bandits Forever' is out May 19th, and there are 500 copies up for grabs on beautiful orange vinyl, along with other formats.

Monday, April 17, 2017

And the Hits Just Keep on Comin' for Nez

After a false start last summer, I'm finally finishing up Elvis Costello's autobiography. I always like to have a book going, particularly one about music, and my next read will be Michael Nesmith's 'Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff,' out this week via Crown Archetype. Like other recent biographies from musicians, there is a companion CD. 'Infinite Tuesday: Autobiographical Riffs The Music' came out on Rhino last week. This is the kind of disc that barely scratches the surface, but it's a nice introduction, particularly if you have always wanted to dip your big toe into his '70s country-rock solo work.

I'm sure the book will have plenty of anecdotes around Nesmith's time as a Monkee, and there must be some time devoted to his single mother's brilliant invention of Liquid Paper, but I'm most interested in his ground-breaking later work in television, film and video. His 'PopClips' program more or less paved the way for MTV, and the long-form video 'Elephant Parts' nabbed him the first ever Grammy in that category. Blink and you missed it, but if you're an old timer like me, you may even remember his off-the-wall show 'Television Parts' on NBC too. As the head of Pacific Arts, his contentious legal battle with PBS rivaled the very war Ken Burns chronicled for the network... and got the lawyers choosing sides. There's so much more that makes this Renaissance man a fascinating figure, but I'll add just one more. Nesmith was executive producer of 'Repo Man.' Enough said. I'm buying 'Infinite Tuesday.'

To whet your appetite for the book, here are two from the 1972 album 'And the Hits Just Keep on Comin''. Obviously, no hits on this one, but it's a low-key LP that's beautiful in its simplicity and my personal favorite from Nesmith's entire discography. Think Roddy Frame's 'Surf'. The personnel is limited to Nesmith on guitar and Red Rhodes on pedal steel. In hindsight, I'm surprised RCA let him make it.

"Tomorrow and Me"
"The Upside of Goodbye"

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy (Mitch) Easter!

The tradition continues. On this day, I usually mix it up a bit with Mitch Easter's work as a musician and as a producer and engineer, but the Easter Bunny told me he was feeling pretty basic this holiday. Said he wanted to do the pogo to a Let's Active video. I assumed he only did the hop, but I decided to egg him on with five fine clips. Enjoy the day, everyone.

"Every Word Means No" (from the 1983 EP "afoot")

"Waters Part" (from the 1984 album 'Cypress')

"In Little Ways" (from the 1986 album 'Big Plans for Everybody')

"Every Dog Has His Day" (from the 1988 album 'Every Dog Has His Day') This one has an intro from a cable-access show that's worth the price of admission.

"Easy Does" (recorded at Cat's Cradle, Carrboro, N.C., Aug. 9, 2014... We miss you, Faye!)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 6)

I have pushed the Elvis Brothers on you before, with little success, but I'm going to try again. They're worth it. I have a soft spot for the power-pop trio because they got together while surrounded by the same central Illinois fields where I grew up. Corn, beans and pumpkins do well there, but creativity isn't something that's easily cultivated in those parts, I can tell you.

Although not nearly as popular, I always felt like the Elvis Brothers were our Cheap Trick. Rick, Robin and the boys hailed from Rockford, a gritty town in the northwest corner of the state. Those of us in the center of the state always had a chip on our shoulder when it came to anything north of Interstate 80. So, it stood to reason Cheap Trick would be the bigger deal. Even the band's label signings had similar parallels. Cheap Trick were on the mighty Epic, and the Elvis Brothers were on the smaller sister label Portrait. Cheap Trick had a few years on the Elvis Brothers, but the sound of the Elvis Brothers' first album, 'Movin' Up' from 1983, was similar to Cheap Trick's first couple of albums. That was before Rick's guitar got louder and Robin's hair got bigger. Rolling Stone's review of 'Movin' Up' described the band better than I ever could: "Take Rockpile's loose-as-a-goose barroom stomp-downs, add Cheap Trick's Midwestern hard-pop sensibility and cartoon-character posturing, throw in Squeeze's knack for the modern hook and the Stray Cats' rockabilly-trio configuration, and you'll have some idea of where the Elvis Brothers are coming from."

"It's So Hard"
"Hidden in a Heartbeat"

In 1985, the Elvis Brothers released 'Adventure Time.' To these ears, the songwriting didn't stray too much from the first album, but the sound and their look did. Adrian Belew produced it, and he made everything sound slicker. Everything about 'Adventure Time' seemed, well, of its time, while 'Movin' Up' seemed timeless. Just compare the album covers above and the clothing they are wearing to see my point. If you look closer at the copies of my albums, you'll see that 'Movin' Up' is pretty worn out, while 'Adventure Time' looks brand new. I'm not going to be too hard on the album though. There are some keepers here, but the label chose all the wrong songs for singles and stacked all the best songs on the second half of the album. I think the toned-down "Crosswinds" is about as close as the band got to capturing the magic of the early days on 'Adventure Time.' "Count to Three" may have been a bit out of the band's comfort zone, but I can appreciate an effort that was described at All Music Guide as being "Holland-Dozier-Holland as reinterpreted by the Raspberries."

"Count to Three'

When Portrait folded in 1986, the Elvis Brothers did as well. In 1992, out of nowhere, the trio returned for one more album on indie label Recession. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. 'Now Hear This' may very well be the best of the three albums. I'm not sure many heard it, but I remain hopeful it will be discovered and appreciated someday. That one is on CD, and we will listen to it another day.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Wobbly Feeling

As I mentioned last time, the family got a few days in SoCal last week. We get down there about once a year, and it's a great spot for us because we all have our favorite places to go. Mine has always been Wombleton Records in L.A.'s Highland Park neighborhood. I found out about the shop in a most interesting way. Back in 2012, while in Edinburgh, I popped into many record shops. I asked David, the owner of a terrific music and book shop at Leith Walk called Elvis Shakespeare, if he had a particular 12" single by Close Lobsters I had been seeking for years. He told me he didn't have it or very many records like it because these two American chaps had recently been in and had cleaned him out. He said the lads had their own shop in Los Angeles, and they were traveling all over the UK looking for finds to stock the store. He gave me their card, and I made it a point to look up the shop when I got back. My love affair with Wombleton was born.

Ian, the owner, has made multiple trips to Scotland, Germany, Holland and many other places around the world looking for rare first-edition vinyl, most of it seemingly catered just for me. No filler. No reissues. He has brought back 50,000 LPs and 20,000 7" singles in the past six-and-a-half years. While Ian is traveling the globe looking for records, his pal Elden minds the store. He is passionate and knowledgeable about every record in in the bins. That might not be so rare for a counter jockey, but his friendliness certainly is. The shop itself looks like the sitting room of a home in the UK, right down to the wallpaper and furniture. You will never find a cozier place to buy records. To sum it up, there isn't another record shop like it in America, and I have always been more than happy to go to Disneyland (for the kids) and outlet shopping at Desert Hills (for the Mrs.) knowing I will get my hour at Wombleton.

Here's where this tale takes a turn. It's over. With zero fanfare and nary an announcement, I discovered Wombleton has closed its doors. I feel like I have lost a friend. What happened? I have found an article in L.A. Weekly with some quotes from Ian that sheds some light on Wombleton's demise. I have written about this shop a time or two, and I have always made it clear the records are expensive. Of course they were. You can't travel the world and select each record by hand, pack them, ship them by boat and get them through customs and pay all of those fees without passing on all of that to the customer. These were not records you could find on a store shelf anywhere else over here, and it was worth paying the prices. What Ian told L.A. Weekly I found more interesting was his sources were depleting. A record he used to find abroad for £6 was now costing him £30. It's obvious a business model like that can't be sustained, but the depletion factor is far more depressing than just this one store closing. My family will continue our treks to the L.A. area, I'm sure, but it just got a little less fun for me.

How do I honor Wombleton today? I'll spin what I have bought there on past trips. What else can I do? Off the top of my head, I know I picked up records by the Hit Parade, Orange Juice, Josef K, the Go-Betweens, Rosehips, Wolfhounds, Sugargliders, the Wedding Present, Soup Dragons, Mighty Mighty, Strawberry Switchblade and Hurrah! Nice hauls, one and all. Let's listen to a few songs and ponder what happened to the stock that was still in the bins when Ian shuttered the place.

I'm thinking of you today, too, Swede. As a former shop owner, I'm sure this doesn't bring back pleasant memories.

The Go-Betweens - "Spring Rain"
The Hit Parade - "Forever"
Hurrah! - "Who'd Have Thought?"

Sunday, April 9, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 5)

Just back from some fun in the sun with the kids during their spring break. Never needed vitamin D so badly. I ripped this translucent gold 10" before I left but ran out of time to post. You may remember Elastica's single "Stutter" making an appearance here before, back in 2015 during my countdown of favorite songs from the '90s, but that was before I had the proper equipment to transfer the B-sides.

On the previous post, "Stutter" generated quite a bit of debate about how much is too much to lift from musical forefathers. For a little taste, C said, "I couldn't believe how much it made me think of Wire when I first heard it." I reminded her Wire thought the same thing... and a settlement was reached. Friend of Rachel Worth had a great line: "Don't mind bands wearing their influences on their sleeve but as a whole suit?" He vaguely remembered a song by Elastica that was awfully close to something by the Stranglers. I was pretty sure it was the riff in "Waking Up" resembling "No More Heroes." Yes, the Stranglers got paid for that one too.

I have been irked many times by bands that have crossed that line, but I have shrugged my shoulders and accepted blatant swipes just as often. When is it acceptable? For starters, give credit where credit is due. When you're caught, don't act shocked and tell us you've never heard of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers before, for example. Now on with the 10" inch of "Stutter." Pilferers or not, I loved Elastica, Sadly, as Echorich said in the comments last time, "Never felt Elastica/Justine Frischmann ever lived up to their potential." What's the old proverb? Oh, yes. "The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long."

Side 1
"Rockunroll" (Peel Session, first broadcast Sept. 18, 1993)

Side 2
"2:1" (BBC Evening Session, first broadcast April 18, 1994)
"Annie" (Peel Session, first broadcast Sept. 18, 1993)