Archive for April, 2010

Record Store Day: What’s Your Record Story?

Posted in Uncategorized on April 15, 2010 by pulmyears

Over more years than I’m happy to admit, I’ve worked and gotten paid (and not gotten paid) in almost every avenue of the music industry and, throughout my travels, I’ve met several hundreds of people.

Of these people, there are the ones who care about the music and the ones who don’t.

I’m with the ones who do.

Among the ones who do, there’s been a lot of buzz about the upcoming fourth annual Independent Record Store Day, which falls this year on Saturday, April 17th.

LOGO & BANNER ARE TRADEMARKS OF RECORD STORE DAY- INFORMATION@RECORDSTOREDAY.COM

If you go to the official Record Store Day website, here’s how they explain the history of the event:

The original idea for Record Store Day was conceived by Chris Brown, and was founded in 2007 by Eric Levin, Michael Kurtz, Carrie Colliton, Amy Dorfman, Don Van Cleave and Brian Poehner as a celebration of the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the USA, and hundreds of similar stores internationally.

This is the one day that all of the independently owned record stores come together with artists to celebrate the art of music. Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day and hundreds of artists in the United States and in various countries across the globe make special appearances and performances. Festivities include performances, cook-outs, body painting, meet & greets with artists, parades, djs spinning records and on and on. Metallica officially kicked off Record Store Day at Rasputin Music in San Francisco on April 19, 2008 and Record Store Day is now celebrated the third Saturday every April.

Record Store Day is currently managed by Eric Levin, Michael Kurtz, Scott Register, and Carrie Colliton. Folks wanting to contact Record Store Day are encouraged to email us at information@recordstoreday.com

NOTE:
A Record Store Day participating store is defined as a physical retailer whose product line consists of at least 50% music retail, whose company is not publicly traded and whose ownership is at least 70% located in the state of operation. (In other words, we’re dealing with real, live, physical, indie record stores—not online retailers or corporate behemoths).

The Record Store Day site also features a lot of celebrity endorsements espousing the value of the independent record store in our society. Among these are:

Tom Waits: “Folks who work here are professors. Don’t replace all the knowers with guessors keep’em open they’re the ears of the town”

Shelby Lynne: “You can’t roll a joint on an iPod – buy vinyl!”

Jack White: “I think it’s high time the mentors, big brothers, big sisters, parents, Guardians, and neighborhood ne’er do wells, start taking younger people That look up to them To a real record store and show them what an important part of life music really is. I trust no one who hasn’t time for music.”

Robyn Hitchcock: “Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck and Bill Rieflin, who comprise the Venus 3, my American band, all heard my songs for the first time in the record stores where they worked. It’s probable they also first heard each other’s music like that, too. I have fond memories of hanging out in US record shops, particularly the Used Record Shoppe in the Sunset district of San Francisco. Shops like Let It Be in Minneapolis, Bill’s in Dallas, Tower on 4th & Broadway, Easy Street in Seattle, Criminal in Atlanta, Amoeba in LA and many others gave us a platform to perform live on tour and unfailingly stocked our records (Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians, my solo work, The Soft Boys and now me & the Venus 3) where the larger chains found us unprofitable. Independent record stores gave my career a solid base > from which to withstand the air currents of hipdom – people who got into your stuff that way really got into it.”

As always, Cameron Crowe says it best: “The record store. Where true fandom begins. It’s the soul of discovery, and the place where you can always return for that mighty buzz. The posters. The imports. The magazines. The discerning clerks, paid in vinyl, professors of the groove. Long live that first step inside, when the music envelopes you and you can’t help it. You walk up to the counter and ask the question that begins the journey — “what is that you’re playing?” Long live the record store, and the guys and girls who turn the key, and unlock those dreams, every day.”

For me, Paul Myers, record stores were very important watering holes for me and my pals, Dan Derbridge and Michael Wojewoda. Living in the suburbs of Toronto, we’d all pile into Michael’s copper ‘n’ rust toned Dart Swinger and make for Yonge Street in Toronto, where we’d spend our lonely, girlfriendless Friday nights together at places like Records On Wheels, chatting with our store clerk pal Randy who rarely liked what we liked but didn’t mind talking about it. Then, we’d go back to Dan’s place and listen to the vinyl and pore over liner notes. Then, next day, we’d spend our  Saturday afternoons at Sam the Record Man, at Yonge and Dundas, then over to The Record Peddler on Queen Street East.

That Sam’s was actually my very first record store, they were indie at first (later they grew into a mall chain and then into oblivion) but that first mega store on Yonge was a shrine to me. I still get a thrill when I see pictures of the neon storefront.

I bought (and here’s where I date myself) The Beatles Abbey Road and Let It Be here. I bought my Guess Who records here, I bought Rush and Max Webster albums here. Later in life, I would have amazing music discussions with Garwood Wallace here, and I’ll never forget the wonderful feeling when my own record, Bowl Of Globes by The Gravelberrys, was in the Top Ten Indie Release racks at Sam’s.

We all have a good laugh when we think about the snobbish dudes in High Fidelity but some of us also get a tear in our eye because some of those assholes changed our lives with their boundary pushing “suggestions” of new music, or old music. I think I heard my first Captain Beefheart album in an indie store, the guy behind the counter probably couldn’t have cared less if anyone bought it or even liked it, but it made me hear something good that I hadn’t heard before. Music aside, the mere business of browsing the album cover art in the shops, especially post-punk and new wave albums, where the artwork was almost as important as the music and designers like Peter Saville were tearing it up with their post-industrial graphics for New Order and other Factory acts. I made a lot of friends in record stores. I got very emotionally attached to Flip City Records on Queen West in Toronto and would have long discussions and listening sessions with the owner David Aaron who, besides playing a mean saxophone, knew the inherent value in spinning the 33 1/3 album cut of Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero” at 45 RPM, in the store, for maximum new wave disco effect. Later there were places like Around Again Records, Driftwood, Cheapies, Rotate This, She Said Boom, Kops, Penguin Music and others.

Then, when I moved to San Francisco, I would frequently get lost in Aquarius Records on Valencia, Streetlight Records on 24th, Amoeba in the Haight (and in Berkeley) as well as Rasputin on Telegraph (Berkeley).

My Vancouver, BC time was marked by less frequent but no less valuable visits to Zulu Records on Fourth Ave. but by then I’d gotten married or old or something and just didn’t feel the need to hang out for three to four hours in a record store anymore.

The world has seen some great record stores, celebrate them.

Conor Oberst loved his Omaha indie record store, growing up…

Jon Brion likes the Hollywood Amoeba store…

There aren’t as many record stores these days, and the internet has taken up a lot of the slack as far as the “bitchy snob” discussion and dissection of new sounds, but record stores, when you find them, are still hallowed ground.

Happy Record Store Day everyone!

ASSIGNMENT: Tell me, in the COMMENTS section of this page, your favourite record stores of all time, the city or town where they are and one or two memorable recordings you wouldn’t have heard if you hadn’t gone in.

Do It Again: The Low Budget Kinks Film

Posted in Uncategorized on April 14, 2010 by pulmyears

The Kinks

For a while now, I’ve been following the progress of Boston Globe reporter and Kinks fanatic Geoff Edgers, who has been working on getting his film Do It Again, directed by Robert Patton-Spruill, made and released.

Do It Again is a road movie of sorts, following Edgers as he attempts to convince his favourite songwriter, Ray Davies, to reunite with his favourite group, The Kinks. What follows is a fan-obsessive journey that encompasses star input from the likes of Paul Weller, Sting, Zooey Deschanel, Clive Davis, Peter Buck and Robyn Hitchcock.

Well apparently the film got made, completely independently, with barely enough funds raised to cover licensing the Kinks songs in the soundtrack (damn you Allen Klein!), and now Edgers is back on the fundraising site Kickstart.com, to try and finance promotion to get the thing out to art houses.

I haven’t seen it yet, but Stewart Nusbaumer of the Huffington Post saw it and added that the film becomes more interesting when you realize that it isn’t really about Ray and the Kinks so much as the decline of the American economy compounded by good old male mid-life crisis.

Nusbaumer writes: “Confronting the possibility of losing his house if not his sanity, Edgers copes with the stress and fear by morphing into a hilarious comedian who embraces the totally whacky idea of uniting a dysfunctional group of British misfits and pathetic screw-ups formerly called the Kinks.

Yes, that is better. But something bigger is going on with this celluloid octopus.

Do It Again is a documentary about the collapse of the American Dream and the desperate struggle of Americans to evade the middle-class barbecue, which those still with jobs call a recession. One precarious American, Geoff Edgers, a member of the torched profession of journalism, confronts the possibility of being burnt toast and flushed down the toilet of the American Nightmare by bending the boundaries of reality to embrace a whacky mission to reunite his favorite band, the Kinks.

Here’s a trailer for Do It Again

Variety’s Jay Weissberg wrote of “Edgers’ persistent, all-American personality,” in the film, and commented on the filmmaker’s decision to interview and film Edgers while doing household chores and eavesdrop on sensitive family discussions about finances.

Weissberg adds: “Edgers’ habit of requesting jam sessions during interviews can make him seem painfully like a teen who knows no boundaries, though there’s a very nice moment with Sting (always a gentleman). In the end, of course, there’s still no Kinks reunion, and the nearest Edgers gets to Ray Davies is at an annual Kinks fan convention in London. But he does interview Dave Davies in a surprisingly clear-headed discussion. Warren Zanes, formerly of the del Fuegos, provides a skeptical but ultimately supportive voice of reason, understanding Edgers’ need to pursue his obsession but warning against a total plunge into madness. Patton-Spruill is no stranger to music docus (“Public Enemy: Welcome to the Terrordome”), but he recognizes this is more about Edgers than the Kinks, so hardcore fans wanting rare concert footage and the like may be disappointed. The final song, a homemade performance of Al Yankovic’s adaptation of “Lola,” is alone worth the price of admission.”

Now back to the fundraising, here’s a recent begging video he made, up at Kickstarter. He’s a really charming guy, sort of a Fred Armisen character, only real.

Finally, it seems appropriate to close with a clip for The Kinks’ 1984 single, “Do It Again” from Word of Mouth.

Splice Of Life: Celebrating The Mashed Up World Of Go Home Productions

Posted in Uncategorized on April 13, 2010 by pulmyears

For almost ten years, I have been fascinated by the groundbreaking and unapologetically hooky mash ups of British splice-master Mark Vidler, better known as Go Home Productions. Based in Watford, UK, he’s kind of the Wayne Gretzky of mash ups, and his illegal work has been so impressive that he actually seems to have a “real career” as a remixer and sound remodeller. I feel his success is largely attributable to the fact that, unlike a lot of deconstructionists and recontextualizers out there, Vidler has a pop songwriter’s instinct for the hook which allows him to transcend the dry cut ‘n’ paste tendencies of many of his peers. Vidler started up in 2001, when the UK was mad for bootlegs, and took full advantage by intiating some groundbreaking bootleg work. He has since been hired, legitimately, by the likes of advertisers (like this  Redbull spot, or this Bacardi one) and custom work for radio station (such as BBC6 Music’s Phill Jupitus Breakfast Show) and recording artists like David Bowie, Bob Dylan, The Doors, Blondie, The Sex Pistols, The Gang Of Four, the late Malcolm McLaren, Alicia Keys and others.

Even if you already know his stuff, let’s take this blog entry time to celebrate the guys work with a little cavalcade of clips. There’ll be some YouTube links (if they haven’t been taken down by the time you read this) but first here’s a couple of links to audio files. First it’s The Carpenters meet Oasis, and we’ve only just begun…

Click on this to hear Carpenter's Wonderwall.

And here’s what happens when you mix The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and Quadrophenia film with Madonna‘s “Like A Virgin” = “Virgin O’Riley”.

And just in case you always wondered what Thin Lizzy’s late singer Phil Lynott would like over Christina Aguilera’s “Genie In A Bottle,” Vidler presents “Thin Genie”:

…which seems to be an answer to Freelance Hellraiser’s “Stroke Of Genie-Us” combining Genie with The Strokes…


And who has the bigger natural, The Supremes or Jeff Lynne? Do I have to ask? Add in some Michael Jackson and you’ve got “Supreme Evil” from Vidler’s “Six Pack” EP (2007).

Blondie even included GHP’s remix of “Rapture”, featuring Jim Morrison samples from “Riders On The Storm”, on their Greatest Hits compilation, this is “Rapture Riders,”

And he didn’t forget REM, or Luther Vandross or both…Here’s “Luther’s Orange Crush”:

Well, let’s get this party ended, just as Pink gets it started, with help  from Billy Idol, on GHP’s “Pink Wedding:”

For more information on Mark Vidler go to his home page! http://www.gohomeproductions.co.uk/

As always, share your comments, stories, complaints, crazy praise, leave little biscuits of wisdom for me or the links to YOUR fave Mash Ups, at the COMMENTS section on this blog (I collect them for the deposit).

Thanks for your time.


Saturday Night Hemlocked With My Talented Friends

Posted in Uncategorized on April 12, 2010 by pulmyears

Saturday night I went to see two bands whom I greatly admire beyond the fact that they are peopled with good friends of mine.

*awesome Californian artwork for gig poster (who designed it?)

The Orange Peels and McCabe & Mrs. Miller who appeared with Ralph Carney’s Serious Jass Project at The Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco. Sadly, I arrived too late to hear the reed-tastic sounds of Mr. Carney’s thing, but he did come up later to blow a few with McCabe and Miller.  The official description of the gig on their Facebook “flyer” reads:

Join McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Orange Peels and Ralph Carney’s Serious Jass Project in celebrating Victor Krummenacher’s umpteenth birthday with an amazing night of Americana Blues Power Pop Jazz at the Hemlock. The birthday boy has requested that in lieu of gifts, he would like 100 people coming through that door – easy! And if all three of these kickass bands weren’t enough to get you out for the night, there will be cupcakes. That’s right – cupcakes.”

We’ll talk about the music in a second, but first, a word about those awesome cupcakes, which were baked, designed and distributed by the amazing Suzie Racho. There were, as far as I could tell, two flavors on hand: Meyer Lemon and Chocolate, and I frankly had one of each. They were AMAZING and definitely merit inclusion as the fourth “band” on the bill. Victor was lucky to have such great sweets on his “umpteenth” birthday!

I’ve been a fan of The Orange Peels since around 1997, when first I arrived on this Pacific coast, and who could be a better ambassador of Californian pop than (Sir) Allen Clapp, the bard of Sunnyvale, CA, who plays the guitar, sings the leads and writes the lion’s share of the material as well as runs the Mystery Lawn Studios where he produces the records. Joined as always by Jill Pries on bass guitar, this gig was significant in that former drummer John Moremen has now moved up to the lead and rhythm guitar (where he shines) to make room for affable new drummer Gabe Coan who rocked with solid authority.

Orange Peels – iPhone shot by Suzie Racho, left to right, Gabe, John, Jill, Allen.

Solid, that’s the word. I have to say this is one of the most solid lineups of the Orange Peels in a long time, not to cast aspersions on former assortments but everything seems in place in this one in a a way that sounds and feels organic.

The new songs from the excellent 20/20 album (Minty Fresh) already sound great on the record but they really came alive at the Hemlock. I was dancing in my spot against the wall, and tempted to grab the mic to sing backup vocals….a good sign. I knew it was going to be a good night when they kicked off with the defiantly optimistic album opener, “We’re Gonna Make It”, heard on this audio-only YouTube clip:

Other highlights included “So Far” and the recent single “Jane Lane” plus their song that first captured my imagination, all those years back, “Something Strange Happens” (from 1997’s Square). By the time they’d left the stage, The Peels owned the place and I was happy to have circled the streets looking for free parking for a half an hour before the show!

McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Alison Faith Levy and Victor Krummenacher’s bluesy hotel of a band, is not unlike the Robert Altman film from whence they got their name. This is music for town hall meetings in Deadwood. Birthday boy Victor (Camper Van Beethoven, Monks of Doom) is the handsome and high lonesome singing male half counter to blues mama Alison (The Sippy Cups, The Loud Family). She’s a surprisingly authentic torch singer and he’s like a cross between Richard Thompson’s baritone and Leonard Cohen’s worldly silver fox. And together, it’s just like their bio says ” a fine mix of blues, folk, and country. Digging at the roots of their rootlessness, these songs sweep out the dark corners of longing, regret, and desire with the intimate wit and wisdom of old friends.”

Alison points heavenward, while Victor (right) holds down the fort. (iPhone photo by Paul Myers)

Here’s a short clip for the band, shot by indie director Danny Plotnick.

Saturday saw them do a great bit of material from their debut album, Time for Leaving (Magnetic Motorworks) which was produced by Bruce Kaphan (American Music Club). Besides the fluidly incendiary lead guitar work of Doug Hilsinger, Saturday night’s set was notable for the sporadic accompaniment of Ralph Carney on clarinet and what could best be described as “bawdy, barrelhouse” saxophone of the variety that would have suited his frequent collaborator Tom Waits.

It was a great night of original music. Oh I know, sure these guys are my friends and typically that bit of full disclosure would tend to nullify the value of my critical perspective. But hey, if they weren’t really great, I’d politely decline to say anything. As it is, I’m thrilled to be able to lend my full endorsement to these musical enterprises of worth and value.

As always, share your comments, stories, complaints, crazy praise or leave little biscuits of wisdom for me at the COMMENTS section on this blog. Thanks for your time.

Malcolm McLaren (1946-2010) – Remembering The Former CEO Of Anarchy, Inc.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 10, 2010 by pulmyears

ART at its most significant is a Distant Early Warning System that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it.”

“All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.”

“Art is anything you can get away with.”

The above quotes come from the late great guru of mass media Marshall McLuhan, but they could have just have easily been spoken or silently pondered by the great rock and roll swindler of punk and hip-hop, Malcolm McLaren who succumbed to cancer yesterday in a Swiss hospital, at the age of 64, surrounded by his 37  year-old wife Young Kim and his grown up son Joe Corre.

Back in the time of two of McLaren’s better known charges, the Sex Pistols and Bow Wow Wow, the last truly spontaneous era in “rock ‘n’ roll, man,” I was always taken by the similarity between Malcolm and Marshall. Besides their having cleverly similar names, (they could have shared monogrammed towels!), McLaren can rightly be seen as the in-the- flesh, made manifest version of McLuhan’s great dictum that “advertising is the greatest art form of the 20th century.”

Malcolm McLaren is remembered largely as “an entrepreneur” or a “manager” but such a limited appellations are about as useful as describing P.T. Barnum a “show producer.” McLaren also staged The Greatest Shows on Earth, in his heyday, and up until yesterday, he was a living legend and would have been the first to tell you that. And why, on earth, wouldn’t he take credit for it? The man worked damn hard at becoming Malcolm McLaren. He was many things, culture appropriator, manager, exploiter and charlatan. But you know what, financial matters aside (I’m thinking of the embittered former Sex Pistol Steve Jones), he was never a liar. The whole “punk rock mythos” of being up front when you sell out and being openly greedy and selfish in demanding attention, was not a lie. Unlike most others in the shallow business of show, McLaren’s biggest con was that it wasn’t just a scam, it was all real.

Sure you can read about his accomplishments in well-researched obituaries in The Guardian, The New York Times, The Independent and the BBC News website, where several of those who knew him well say lovely things about him. There’s his former wife and partner in crime, now Dame Vivienne Westwood, who told the BBC, that “when we were young and I fell in love with Malcolm, I thought he was beautiful and I still do. The thought of him dead is really something very sad.”

Even John Lydon, the former Johnny Rotten erred on the sentimental side saying:  “I will miss him, and so should you.” While influential UK music journalist Jon Savage confirmed that, if it hadn’t been for  McLaren “there would not have been any British punk. He’s one of the rare individuals who had a huge impact on the cultural and social life of this nation.”

He was an artist, in the Andy Warhol sense of the word –which is not to demean either gentleman’s role in shaping the commercial art of their respective eras – and it seems that this is the prism through which we best understand his motives and accomplishments.  A product of British 60’s Art Schools, McLaren arrived at the end of the sixties a keen student of the French “situationist” art movement, after stints at  London’s Central St Martin’s College of Art,  Harrow Art College, South East Essex College (which turfed him out!), Chiswick Polytechnic and finally the Croydon College of Art. He was said to have been very moved by the Paris 1968 student uprising and the notion of using absurdist stunts to effect social change and, one hoped, bolster revolutionary thoughts.

A chance meeting with designer Vivienne Westwood (at Goldsmiths College, London) inspired him to tailor the revolution to her equally provocative fashion ideas. Between 1972 and 1974, the two opened a succession of boutiques in King’s Road, with names like Let It Rock and Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die, before shortening the name to simply, Sex, by 1975.

It is here that the worlds of Fashion, Art and Rock collided as McLaren soon befriended the New York Dolls, who had by 1975, exhausted their first wave of glam fame and were looking for a new direction.

Under McLaren’s brief tutelage, the band were transformed into uniformed red patent leather clad revolutionaries – only there was no revolution. Yet. The Dolls broke up (for a while anyway) but for now,  McLaren had developed a taste for the subversive and situationist possibilities offered by the world of rock and roll, all he needed was a blank canvas on which to paint his next music/ marketing masterpiece. Enter John Lydon, literally walking into Sex boutique, who (after his own fave pick Richard Hell was nixed) seemed the ideal front man for a band that had formed around his stock boy Glen Matlock (bass) and his mates Paul Cook (drums) and Steve Jones (guitar). After a bidding war, McLaren proved his clout by snatching an unheard of £40,000 advance, from EMI records, for the newly christened Sex Pistols.

God Save The Queen (background) It's The Sex Pistols (foreground) while McLaren sizes up you, the customer.

The rest is largely well-documented history. The Pistols go on the Bill Grundy show, act loutishly, drop the F-bomb and get thrown off EMI before the album is even released.

And although even McLaren is panicked by the scandalous appearance, he smells the power of controversy and promptly gets the Pistols a new deal with A&M for £80,000, signed right in front of Buckingham Palace, (see above signing ceremony picture). When A&M succumbed to internal pressures and did an about face which resulted in the Sex Pistols being shown the door, McLaren simply walked them over to Branson’s new Virgin Records label, where they released the incendiary “God Save The Queen” single just in time for Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee and the groundbreaking album Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols. Here’s the clip for “God Save The Queen,” sorry for the bad video quality, the song still slays me though:

And here they are, in all their ragged glory, on Tony Wilson’s “So It Goes” doing “Anarchy In The UK” August 28, 1976.

After two years of continued outrage which included a weird and truncated American tour, the death of Sid Vicious (Matlock’s non-player bass replacement) shortly after the death of Vicious’s girlfriend Nancy Spungen, the Sex Pistols episode was over by 1978, amid bad feelings and lawsuits over funds.

By now a virtuoso of mass media manipulation, McLaren walked away, however, with the keys to the Sex Pistols mythmaking machine. He portrayed himself as the Svengali of Punk in Julien Temple’s film The Great Rock And Roll Swindle.

But McLaren was just getting warmed up. He was about to conquer even wider – mostly less controversial at the time –  horizons. Yet now, with benefit of hindsight, it seems clear that he was actually becoming more interested in moving music itself, and not just the fashion, forward. And yet he was scoring on both fronts.

Bow Wow Wow, fronted by teenage Anabella Lwin, brought Burundi drum rhythms to youthful and precocious pop music, resulting in real radio hits like “I Want Candy,” “C30, C60, C90, Go” and “Go Wild In The Country” (1982).

Then, on a business trip to Manhattan in 1982 to promote Bow Wow Wow, Malcolm McLaren stumbled into hip-hop culture when he was invited to a South Bronx party featuring break dancing, graffiti art and a huge African American MC named Afrika Bambaataa. To McLaren, hip-hop was like “black punk rock” and soon after, he made his first foray into the genre with The World Famous Supreme Team and the single “Buffalo Gals”

… combined girls’ street skipping with South African Township Jive on “Double Dutch”

and had Keith Haring, among others, contribute artwork to the album Duck Rock.

Cover art for Duck Rock, continues from front (left side) to back (right).

Crossing cultures had become his new stock-in-trade, and he was soon merging opera – Carmen and Madam Butterfly – with hip-hop inflected pop on the album Fans, and another real hit, “Madame Butterfly.”

In 1989, he formed the Bootzilla Orchestra, with contributions from Jeff Beck and Bootsy Collins, and released the album Waltz Darling, featuring the single “Deep In Vogue” which not only finally merged his early roots in the fashion world with the later beats and club consciousness he’d cultivated in New York, it also set the stage for Madonna’s own hit “Vogue” which borrowed heavily from it.

In the final analysis, Malcolm McLaren was a true artist, a musical agitator who pushed music forward in unseen and untold ways, even if he rarely played a note himself.

“It was this brilliant idea… we made ugliness, beautiful.”

He’d be upset if we didn’t close by letting him speak for himself, so now, ladies and gentlemen, the rock situationist, the former CEO of Anarchy, Inc., the man whose scratch made you itch,  Mr. Malcolm McLaren:

P.S. here’s a quote; “Good taste is the first refuge of the non-creative. It is the last-ditch stand of the artist.” Now tell me, who said this, Malcolm McLaren or Marshall McLuhan? Are you sure?

As always, share your comments, stories, complaints, crazy praise or leave little biscuits of wisdom for me at the COMMENTS section on this blog. Thanks for your time.

Toys In The Attic: No Really.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 9, 2010 by pulmyears

Forgive me, Aerosmith fans, for the unwittingly misleading headline, but I was in L.A. over the weekend and on the way out of town, we stopped by one of my favourite book stores, the venerable and perennially hip, Book Soup.

Of course, while I was there, I was happy to find that they had at least one copy of my 2007 book, It Ain’t Easy: Long John Baldry And The Birth Of The British Blues (Greystone/D&M).

But that’s not what I’m writing about today. The other book that caught my eye was this,

The book is Toy Instruments: Design, Nostalgia, Music by Eric Schneider (Mark Batty Publishing).

I have always been interested in tiny, seemingly amateur instruments, particularly the electro toys of Japan, the 50’s and 60’s, or all of those combined. On a 2001 trip to Kyoto, I purchased this Hello Kitty Toy Shinkansen train that plays a selection of spoken word sentences, not music, but I play the short samples like as if it was a musical instrument.

And just this past winter, I was at Tower Records in Tokyo, where I saw this weird thing called an Otamatone.

Looks like a cross between a saxophone, a plastic model of a sperm, and music note with eyes. Here’s their demo video from the YouTubes.

But back to Toy Instruments,

According to the copy on the MBP website, Schneider’s book “comprises an eye-popping collection of musical toys made between the 1950s and 1990s. Created to excite children about learning how to play an instrument, it turns out that adults also had fun with these products. Just ask David Bowie; he used the Dubreq Stylophone on “Space Oddity.”

Apparently Mr. Schneider has a huge collection of this sort of thing, and according to the blurb,  Toy Instruments explores “just how musical toys are emblematic, and enigmatic, artifacts from bygone eras. Here’s a little collage of three of them from Schneiders personal website museum [http://www.miniorgan.com/home.php].

Left to right: 1954 Nucleonic Eltronovox, 1960 "Baby Grand" and 1959 Asahi Electronic Organ

Here are some other screen grabs I made from Miniorgan.

The Michael Jackson Sing-A-Long Sound Machine:

And I’m not even sure what THIS is: But you’ve got to go to the Miniorgan site to hear the samples, loops you can sort of make a track out of:

Click on this image to get to this:

In his introduction to Toy Instruments, DJ Spooky writes,  “I think of the material that Eric Schneider has compiled as a kind of ‘object’ time machine, reaching back to the heart of what electronic music represented when it was new.”

Cool stuff.

Power Pop Playlist: 13 Songs That Mix Sweet Hooks With Rockin’ Riffs

Posted in Uncategorized on April 1, 2010 by pulmyears

If you know me (and if you don’t, Hi!  I’m Paul! Pleased to meet you!) you know that I seriously love crunchy rockin’ power pop goodness. To me, it’s always in fashion. Or out of fashion… my point, and I do have one, is that I don’t care if it’s cool or not! (Although I secretly know that it is.)

Ric Menck - right on.

Ric Menck, drummer for Velvet Crush and Matthew Sweet, recently said on his Facebook page: “I love the term power pop. The words look and sound so good together.”

I concur Ric, but would add that there is equal need for both words in the term. Power Pop must have POWER and POP – two great tastes that taste great together. It means four on the floor, crunchy guitar, soaring melodies and tight harmonies. It’s the sound of young love, innocent lust and the first all-nighter of spring. I’ll wear it proudly.

Of course the notion of power pop is said to date back to a quip made by Peter Townshend to describe The Who, and that makes sense when you hear “Pictures of Lily”:

And now, for Power Pop Thursday, I humbly submit a Power Pop Rock n Hooks Playlist to illustrate. *Note: I have limited today’s focus to big guitar hooks and tight drumming and big vocal choruses. There will be other features in the future, COMMENTS and SUGGESTIONS are always welcome at the bottom of this post (not on my Facebook page) – comments left here are like cookies left for Santa!

One of the first times I was aware of power pop’s unique adrenalinability was when I heard Badfinger sing “No Matter What”

And lately we’ve all been remembering recently departed Alex Chilton and Big Star‘s influence and contributions, and you have to admit that “September Gurls” is a landmark of the genre.

And of course, Raspberries “Go All The Way” (audio only) was a big hooky thing too.

Here’s a raw live version of Todd Rundgren’s “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” from the Back To The Bars tour in 1978. This song, originally on Something/Anything?, is very Who-influenced if you ask me, and really why would you?

I always through in some of the New Wave pop bands of the Seventies, such as The Records, and “Starry Eyes”. Here’s a clip someone put up where they synched the album version to a TV show appearance. Yay!


Of course, this always reminds me of Bram Tchaikovsky’s “Girl Of My Dreams”

Of course the Nineties were a great time for updating the sound, and Matthew Sweet made several contributions to the legacy, here’s one I never tire of, “Sick Of Myself” (clip directed by Roman Coppola).

I really liked Material Issue’s take on power pop, a little angstier than most but sweet as all get out.

Material Issue

This is the band, after all, who coined the term “International Pop Overthrow” and whose singer Jim Ellison died way too young, at his own hand by carbon monoxide poisoning (!) and is arguably, the Kurt Cobain of 90’s power pop.  Here’s a clip I found for “Diane” by Material Issue.

Here’s The Smithereens “A Girl Like You”

How about Cheap Trick’s “I Can’t Take It” (audio only, produced by Todd Rundgren):

The Pursuit of Happiness “She’s So Young”(also produced by Rundgren) is a fine, fine example of a big hooky song.

Heck, I even see the chorus of Paul Westerberg’s “World Class Fad” as power pop, so I’ll throw it in, free!

We’re out of time now, and we haven’t even gotten Tommy Keene and a slew of other greats on here, but I have to get back to work.  I bet you’ll be humming at least one of these tomorrow.

%d bloggers like this: