Saturday, October 27, 2018


Earlier this week, I went to my son's middle-school band concert. To some of you I imagine this sounds like a fate worse than death, but it's different when you have someone to root for from the uncomfortable bleachers of the gym. Obviously, my son was the best one. Ha! For Halloween, they played three movements from 'Darklands Legends,' and there is a part when one of the percussionists really gets to go to town on the tubular bells. Man, do I love bells. I have always wanted to take vibraphone lessons. Why haven't I just done it? Inertia, I guess.

Anyway, as this kid is wailing on the bells, a couple of pop songs popped into my mind. Here's one of them. Perhaps they are best known for backing Captain Sensible on a couple of smash hits, but Dolly Mixture was a female trio I knew from their short time on Paul Weller's Respond label. In fact, the "Been-Teen" single was the very first release. This is RESP 4, released in 1982, and I hope you like your bells. This makes the fourth Respond act featured here in the last couple of years. A Craze, Tracie and the Questions were the others. Can Vaughan Toulouse be far away?

Everything and More

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Born to Be Together

In the late '80s, producer, writer and girl-group aficionado Alan Betrock had a dream come true. He got studio time at Record Plant Studios in New York with the legendary Ronnie Spector. Betrock showed Spector several songs she might want to record, and the singer really took to the work of Marshall Crenshaw. Betrock and Crenshaw went way back. The former had even produced the latter's first single, "Something's Gonna Happen," in 1982. Her backing band would be Crenshaw on guitar, Graham Maby of Joe Jackson Band fame on bass and, just like the early days of Marshall's career, Crenshaw's brother Robert on drums. The nouveau girl group the Pussywillows provided backing vocals.

Due to the assets of the Record Plant being seized in a bankruptcy, these songs sat on a shelf until the turn of the century. Ronnie and her husband/manager finally gained control of the tapes and put them out themselves in 2003. By then, sadly, Betrock had died of cancer at age 49, breaking the hearts of Crenshaw and the other participants. Crenshaw loves these versions of some of his best-known songs, calling them in one interview "by far the best covers of my songs that anybody has ever done." In another interview he said, "I think they're just beautiful. I was really into everything on the Philles label, so it was exciting to cross paths with her." This really was a match made in heaven. Here are a couple that originally came from Crenshaw's second album and my personal favorite, 'Field Day.'

For His Love
Whenever You're on My Mind

Monday, October 22, 2018

I'll Meet You By the Third Pyramid

My plan was to have more posts of Lush covers last week, but I got caught up in a perfect storm of children's homework. We aren't talkin' a few math problems either. When did kids start getting all of these massive projects, anyway? I certainly don't remember having this much to do when I was 12. I got this song stuck in my head on Sunday as we created a travel brochure through a period of history.

The B-52's - Mesopotamia

First and foremost, Fred sings a lesson for us all: "I ain't no student of ancient culture. Before I talk I should read a book." Listen, I know this EP is considered a misstep by most. After the self-titled debut and 'Wild Planet,' one critic had the witty line the B-52's were trying to take the "p" out of "party," but I remind you there was more than enough blame to go around for this hiccup, from the band's manager to the label bosses to a certain highly respected artist who maybe shouldn't have taken on producer duties when he was more interested in working on his solo project. All of that aside, I must admit I quite like this song, and it was fun to dig out and play for an apt pupil in the LTL household today. That's what I call getting a good education.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Covered By Lush (Part 4)

Lush's "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" may not be tops on my list of favorite covers, but the album it appeared on is a firm favorite. In 1990, Midnight Music released 'Alvin Lives (In Leeds),' a loud protest of the Community Charge, also known as the poll tax, in Great Britain. Bands from Midnight's stable of stars, such as the Popguns, Corn Dollies, Robyn Hitchcock and the Wedding Present were joined by other indie legends like Close Lobsters, 14 Iced Bears and the Siddeleys for a compilation of '70s pop covers. All profits went to the Can't Pay, Won't Pay Resource Unit, a group dedicated to fighting the poll tax.

Lush opened the album with an interesting choice that had reached the top of the UK charts in 1971 by Scottish band Middle of the Road. Yes, I suppose we could discuss the song's theme of child abandonment ("Woke up this morning and my momma was gone"), an odd one for a sugary pop song, but we have enough going on in the world right now without adding this to the pile. These pages are all about putting on the blinders.

If you're an American with an encyclopedic knowledge of '70s soft rock, this Middle of the Road business is probably a head scratcher. You'll agree this song was a hit in 1971, but not by a bunch of Scots. Well, your mind is still sharp, my friend. I'm sure Miki and Emma chose this song after hearing the version by Middle of the Road, but on the other side of the Atlantic Trinidadian brother-and-sister duo (and English residents) Mac and Katie Kissoon took it to No. 20 on the Billboard charts. I don't have the version by Middle of the Road, we will have to settle for a YouTube clip, but I do have the one made famous over here. As for Lush's take, it's a faithful version with a sound that wouldn't have been out of a place as a deep (key word is deep) cut on 'Scar.'

Mac and Katie Kissoon - Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep
Lush - Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Covered By Lush (Part 3)

The idea for this short series was inspired by today's song. The other day our pal the Swede commented on the post about the Paley Brothers, saying, "I'm not sure why I didn't follow up on these guys as I was a big fan of early Dwight Twilley, who wasn't a million miles away, musically speaking." His words made me think of "I'm on Fire" by Dwight Twilley Band, and I also mentioned the Flamin' Groovies and the Rubinoos in that same post. I knew I had all three of those bands on a fantastic Rhino compilation that came out 20 years ago called 'Poptopia! Power Pop Classics of the '70s.' I listened to all 18 songs on the disc, and as I played the 1979 classic "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," I had a faint recollection of a girl singing this one but couldn't for the life of me remember who it was. I was stumped until just before bed as I brushed my teeth. I should brush dozens of times a day as that seems to be when I do my best thinking.

In 1996, Lush compiled all of the 'Lovelife-'era B-sides on a Canada and Japan only release called 'Topolino.' This version was the flip side of the bad-ass 'Ladykillers' single. That hit was worlds away from Lush's dreamy sound of the early days, but I loved it anyway. As for this cover, it doesn't always work when boyfriend becomes girlfriend and vice versa -- for some reason Tracey Ullman singing Madness' "My Girl" as "My Guy" comes to mind -- but I bought in to this one. Hearing it makes me wonder how Miki and Emma discovered this cult classic straight outta Berkeley. Sure glad they found it.

The Rubinoos - I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
Lush - I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Covered By Lush (Part 2)

That short reunion of Elvis Costello & the Attractions in the mid-'90s was most welcome. My fandom was at a fever pitch during those years. This was around the time all of Costello's back catalog was being reissued for the first time. Then there was the new material. I snapped up 'Brutal Youth,' 'All This Useless Beauty' and all of the corresponding singles. Most importantly, I caught the Attractions on each of the tours and in contrasting venues. On the first tour, I saw them in Japan in the back of a big beautiful modern theater. The audience sat like statues and clapped politely in the appropriate places. Surreal is the word for it. In support of 'All This Useless Beauty,' I saw the band at a proper general-admission stand wherever ballroom in D.C., and I was smashed up at the stage right smack in front of Bruce Thomas. That's more my speed.

As for Lush, the band's fourth and final studio album, 'Lovelife,' came out at nearly the same time as 'All This Useless Beauty.' Even though I was once a huge fan, I sort of lost my way with Lush after 'Spooky,' and I didn't buy the new album until about five months after it came out. I ended up seeing Lush in late summer of '96, just as Costello was about to release the single "You Bowed Down" on CD with four other songs. The most interesting of the bunch was this faithful cover by Lush. Costello told Billboard magazine in October of that year, "They actually recorded quite a pretty version of it, which was a nice surprise to me because they did things with the vocal harmony that I wasn't expecting." He went on in a congratulatory manner, voicing his pleasure at seeing Lush conquer America, and they really did. It all came to end for Lush with the death of drummer Chris Acland before Costello's nice words in Billboard even made it to print. Well, that is until the 2016 reunion.

Elvis Costello & the Attractions - All This Useless Beauty
Lush - All This Useless Beauty

Monday, October 15, 2018

Covered By Lush (Part 1)

Life tells me to make these quickies all week. Going all in with Miki and Emma and the songs they have covered. Their choices make me love Lush all the more. If I have the original, I'll include it. Let's start with one that's impossible to dislike. Wire's "Outdoor Miner" is a B-side from the "For Love" 10" and 12", Lush's third single or EP from the 'Spooky' era. Some early fans didn't like the LP because it seemed like producer Robin Guthrie had usurped Lush's sound and made them another Cocteau Twins. Bah, I say! Love this period. Anyway, "Outdoor Miner" was not produced by Guthrie. Apologies for the scratchy original from my aging 7", but I wanted to hear this version instead of the one on 'Chairs Missing' today. Another Lush cover tomorrow.

Wire - Outdoor Miner (7")
Lush - Outdoor Miner (B-side)

Friday, October 12, 2018

Forecast Calls For the Perfect English Weather

Indie-pop fans rejoice! One of the most anticipated releases of the year is almost here, but beware. This walk-up single may be a laid-back little taste of what's to come, but "Rockin' To The Beat," a song about "picturing a parent watching their adolescent child dancing at the edge of a summer festival crowd" is going to work you into a lather for the long player. Just a while longer, friends. 'Don't You Wanna Feel the Rain?' by the Perfect English Weather will be out next month via Matinée Recordings.

If you're a regular around here, you surely know by now the Perfect English Weather are the husband-and-wife team of Wendy and Simon Pickles from the Popguns. In what felt like nothing short of a miracle, the Popguns came back to us after nearly two decades away with 'Pop Fiction.' This was no lazy nostalgia trip either. The album rivaled the band's best work and was far and away my favorite album of 2014. Since then, fans of the Pickles have been treated to an embarrassment of riches with the Perfect English Weather, an outlet for the duo to turn down the volume a bit and channel some of their dreamier sounds while continuing to produce the indie rock of the Popguns in equal measure. I can't recommend TPEW's debut enough. Upon release in 2016, I called 'Isobar Blues' "a perfect storm of ballad and boom, and all part of a warm front that drenches you with a downpour of pop hooks." The electro-acoustic pop of 2017 EP "English Weather" was even better. No foolin'.

You can grab the single "Rockin' To The Beat" at the Matinée shop and at Bandcamp. Stop back at these places in November for album pre-order information. I, for one, can't wait.

Oct. 13 Update: Simon says look for the album to drop Nov. 9.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

No, Not Those Paleys

From the Pale Fountains and offshoots Dislocation Dance we go to Paleys of a completely different stripe. I thought about including the Paley Brothers in that post on the golden years of Sire Records, but they didn't quite fit next to the likes of Richard Hell, Ramones and Talking Heads... although you may know this duo from performing a cover of "Come On Let's Go" with the Ramones (sans an ill Joey) on the 'Rock and Roll High School' soundtrack.

It's a funny, but Andy and Jonathan Paley were the real oddballs to come out of the CBGB contingent. They looked and dressed like teen idols and sounded like something you might have heard on your AM dial in 1976. Yet, there they were, playing with members of the Patti Smith Group and hanging out with David Johansen one minute, only to be opening for poster boy Shaun Cassidy the next. Bottom line is they knew how to play a lighter brand of power pop like pros. No, there would never be any hits, but if you like the sounds of the Flamin' Groovies or the Rubinoos with a dash of harmonies inspired by the Beach Boys, you just may dig the Paley Brothers. Here are a couple of my favorites you can find on what turned out to be the band's only LP.

Stick With Me Baby
Come Out and Play

These boys were before my time. In case you were wondering, my in was when Andy worked with Brian Wilson on his first solo album back in 1988. To get the full story on how that happened, I suggest you pick up that memoir Seymour Stein released earlier this year I keep going on and on about. It's quite a tale. One more aside. Tonight, as I was ripping the vinyl for this post, I couldn't help but notice Mrs. LTL picked up the album cover and asked me all kinds of questions about the two lads. Hmm, interesting. That never happens.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A Little Deeper Dig With Dislocation Dance

That last post may have given the impression the sounds of Dislocation Dance had that early-'80s sound to which not everyone out there is enamored. Well, here's one of my favorites from a slightly earlier time. The single "Rosemary" is the bridge between the band's post-punk days and the slick sophisti-pop era that was to come. I would love to tell you this one caught fire and raced up the indie charts, but it only appeared there for a week in the summer of '82, peaking at a lukewarm No. 46. If you're wondering about the conspicuous absence of Kathryn Way's pipes, she left the band briefly and came back just about the time the single was released. There is a funny clip of the band performing this song for French television where Way is miming Andy Diagram's trumpet part on the saxophone as she dances around with nothing better to do. What a cutie! You can find it in the regular places.