Thursday, March 25, 2010

THE STOOGES Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony – March 16, 2010

Guest Review by Madeline Bocaro
My world and the real world collided last night. I have my very own private Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, and the Stooges are the only band in it. Last night, the Stooges were inducted into that other Rock Hall – the one that everybody thinks is legitimate. Well, maybe now it is!
Of course, after seven nominations and rejections, they waited until guitarist Ron Asheton passed away, depriving him of the honour. But at least the Stooges have finally been recognized. Perhaps it was thanks to that debacle in 2008 – their performance of Madonna’s songs at her own induction, upon her invitation. In a way she used them, but yet again, perhaps people took notice.
Ironically, the show opened with Phish doing the ultimate prog-rock song, Genesis’ ‘Watcher of the Skies’, with its monotonous, endless keyboard intro.  Eeeek!  Poor Iggy and the guys had to be subjected to this! I could see the wheels turning their heads, thinking ‘Do we really want to be a part of THIS – the antitheses of everything the Stooges stand for? They cut to Iggy in the crowd wearing a suit, then to a close-up of Meryl Streep. Does this make any sense at all? Was I watching the right channel? I was squirming throughout the long-winded accolades and detailed glorification of Genesis songs in their induction. Thankfully their acceptance speech was brief. Then Phish performed another Genesis song performed. How much more of this could I take?
Thankfully, the Stooges were up next. A wonderful historic film montage of the monstrous menagerie’s assault on the music scene was shown. The kid from Green Day read a nice induction speech, with a long litany of bands the Stooges have influenced. Iggy, James and Scott each spoke, acknowledging all the dum dum boys…those no longer with us; Dave Alexander, Zeke Zettner Ron Asheton, and those who are; Billy Cheatham, Jimmy Recca, Scott Thurston, Steve Mackay and Mike Watt. 
With two upheld middle fingers to the crowd, Iggy triumphantly uttered, “Roll over Woodstock. We won!” Iggy, showing everyone his note cards, proudly said, ‘We three are the surviving Stooges.” He mentioned that Ron and Dave would have gotten a big kick out of this, and that Ron was pissed off that it didn’t happen when he was alive.
Iggy continued, “So, here we are – in the belly of the beast. There’s a lot of power and money in this room. It’s a big industry. Music is life, and life is not a business.” He gave nods to the MC5, Danny Fields, and “all the poor people who actually started rock n’ roll music” deeming them all ‘cool’. “Music is a big industry. If it makes the right decisions, it will stay an industry," he warned. He thanked “all Stooge fans, who probably couldn’t afford the $1,200 dinner” at the Waldorf Astoria. Then Iggy choked up and said, “This particular group of friends has had the fortune of having a lovely second act. So thanks.”
James Williamson said, “We were beginning to think we would have to take pride in setting the record for not getting in.”
While Scott Asheton spoke of his brother Ron, “I really miss making music with him, and I probably will for the rest of my life.” Iggy, the caged animal (you can dress him up, but you can’t contain him!) disrobed on camera, taking little time to find a monkey bar to hang from. He was pumping himself up for the Stooges’ performance, itching to break free.
With their Raw Power guitarist James Williamson, original drummer Scott Asheton, Steve Mackay on sax and Mike Watt on bass, Iggy – obviously a descendant of Godzilla - stomped around in reverie, performing (from the Stooges’ third and first albums) ‘Search And Destroy’ and ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’. In the 70s, I thought I was the only person on the planet who loved these songs. How did it come about that everyone else likes them now too? Are they just trying to be cool?
I thought my eyes were deceiving me, but it really was that little worm Paul Schaeffer inappropriately hammering away on a very loud keyboard during ‘Search And Destroy’ (how does he always get into the act?). It was so WRONG, but I refused to let him ruin this moment for me. He should be banned from anything to do with rock n’ roll, since he wrote the song “It’s Raining Men”.
Mackay cranked up his skronking sax during “I Wanna Be Your Dog’, as Iggy entered the tuxedoed audience. There was nobody recognizable up front. Bruce Springsteen was probably hiding under a table. The only famous person visible was Dr. Oz, who actually seemed quite impressed. It was disappointing, because this is my favourite situation; when Iggy is unleashed to terrorize bewildered celebrities. If only Oprah were up front so that he would have ripped her wig off! Iggy recently said, “I'm at the time of life where people sort of pick me up by the collar and exhibit me on various occasions.”
Iggy invited a stage invasion during ‘Dog’, as he usually does at live gigs (“Let’s see some rich people up here…let’s see some jewelry up here! Come on, you're not too rich to be cool!"). It was quite a poor showing - only about 10 guys (where was Meryl Streep?!) Not like the hordes who rushed the stage at Glastonbury in 2007 – a crowd so big that it created a nice subterfuge for the person who skillfully absconded with Ron Asheton’s guitar! Iggy then did his infamous chicken dance, and it was all over.
Asked backstage if he has donated any memorabilia to the institution that was honoring him, Iggy replied, "I told them where to buy all the stuff I sold for drugs in the '70s."

Transient Songs "Cave Syndrome"

(Indian Casino RecordsVaguely psychedelic, often acoustic, and definitely pop, Transient Songs harkens back to the tuneful indie-rock of the mid-80s.  Galaxie 500 is a good reference point, for those who can remember back that far.  Atmospheric and ethereal without lapsing into pretentiousness.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sparky Grinstead "Won Out"

(Sparlene Records) If you like the Bomp! Records sound from the mid-‘70s (stripped-down straight-ahead power-pop) then you’ll love this lo-fi treasure from 1979.  Home recorded by Mr. Grinstead himself, with most of the non-keyboard instruments played by him as well, it’s a testament to the long-lasting appeal of heartfelt songs.  The original record goes for big bucks in collector circles, but thankfully you can find the re-release at CD Baby and other fine music outlets. 

The Gears "Rockin' at Ground Zero" Deluxe Edition/D.I.s "Rare Cuts"

(Hep Cat Records) The Gears were an L.A. punk band that formed in '78 and took on a kind of Stray Cats retro juvenile delinquent vibe, but kept one foot in L.A. punk, creating some prime pogo poundings. Their album, reissued here with a bunch of demos and singles tracks, was as solid as any record by a 2nd tier L.A. 70s punk band, and the title track coulda shoulda woulda been a hit if things had skewed right. But they didn't and the band broke up and transformed. The D.I.s (whose recordings are packaged with the Gears CD) are not to be confused with punk heroes D.I. They not only kept the psychobilly/surf/rock band vibe of the Gears, they took it further.  Singer Axxel G. Reese went completely "Happy Days" with this retro act, and made any inner turmoil between choosing between punk and 50s rock literal with the song "Mohowk vs. DA." A bunch of these tracks are expertly produced by the amazing Billy Zoom of X fame.  Others were produced as a demo for A&M Records that I assume went nowhere.  All of it makes me wonder why these guys are only known to record collectors these days.  It’s a plain shame!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


GUEST REVIEW by Gary Pig Gold Nowadays, it seems anyone and everyone with easy access to velcro sideburns and a karaoke machine are busy making livings (of a sort) out of playing at Elvis Aaron Presley.
After all, Mojo Nixon was right:  Elvis Is Everywhere.
But retrospective credit is definitely due director John Carpenter and dick clark productions for getting there fastest, and first:  Even before the autopsy was cold, they were readying their “Elvis” for his home screen resurrection during prime time, February of 1979.
The vehicle? An ambitious, yet quite reverent (especially in view of subsequent bio-pics) made-for-TV motion picture starring Kurt Russell in that title role of a lifetime. And to watch this particular Elvis again today, newly available from the fine folk over at Shout! Factory, is to be reminded just how larger-than-life The King had already become as the Seventies ended and the deification was only about to begin.
Indeed, the original, uncut Elvis tele-film, freshly packaged alongside some revelatory bonus footage (including a real gem from the Dick Clark vaults: a Summer of ’64 Beatle-battling tribute to the King from American Bandstand) makes for a surprisingly entertaining, and sometimes even thought-provoking two hours of music, mayhem and, as is often hinted, pure madness. Yes, it’s the story of a simple man blessed with unusual talents and drive who, armed only with his wits and a twelve-dollar guitar, aspired to little more than moving his beloved parents out of the Memphis projects and into a comparatively better life.
Of course, what transpired over the next ten years Elvis in even his wildest adolescent dreams could hardly have imagined.
Under Carpenter’s direction, this still-improbable tale is told with an unusual eye for detail and a true sense of middle-1950s America, with its music and its morals struggling to break free. More remarkable still, Elvis succeeds in conveying just how one most unlikely young man came to embody this entire socio-musical upheaval, and how it eventually swallowed and, yes, broke him (although the film’s narrative ends with Elvis’ return to the concert stage in 1969, it often foreshadows the dispiriting tragedy that was the man’s final five years. No small feat for a medium-budget production undertaken without access to the decades of Presley study and research that was yet to be undertaken).     
Pedigree is present as well – perhaps that is why its subject matter is treated with such accuracy and respect throughout – as the cast of Elvis features two actual Memphis Mafia, Larry Geller and Charlie Hodge. Much screen time as well is devoted to the Elvis of Sun Records, where during the years 1954/1955 he and his raw-diamond accompanists Scotty Moore and Bill Black just so happened to change the course of musical history under the ever-watchful ears of producer Sam Phillips. This is a key era of Presley’s development which is much too often ignored for flashier and/or seemlier events in most retrospective recreations of the man, cinematic and otherwise.   
Keen observers will also spot in the role of Elvis’ first drummer D.J. Fontana no less than original Spinal Tap sticksman Ed Begley Jr. And while we’re trivially speaking, lest we forget that Kurt Russell’s very first-ever motion picture appearance was at the tender age of eleven, attacking the real Elvis’ shins in 1963’s It Happened At The World’s Fair. So there!
Interesting as well to see the role of Elvis’ long-suffering daddy Vernon played by Kurt’s real-life father Bing (!), and to realize within weeks of the ABC-TV premier of Elvis Kurt up and married Season Hubley, who portrayed his on-screen wife Priscilla!! And keeping things as familialy dysfunctional as possible, the great Shelley Winters is brilliantly cast as Elvis’ closer-than-close mother Gladys, a role she plays throughout Elvis with a verve not seen since her star turn throughout Wild In The Streets.
 But it is truly the 27-year-old Kurt who excels, more than ably filling gigantic shoes and faltering only occasionally during some of the key musical numbers. Not that he should be blamed, however:  Russell makes as good a hillbilly cat as can really be expected from a former Disney kid who looks as if he spent his formative years listening to far too many Fabian records. Yet purely dramatically speaking, he portrays the King with a respect and, believe it or not, sly subtlety which has been sorrowfully lacking in most every subsequent way-over-the-top Presley portrayal.
To be truthful, I was personally surprised at just how well Elvis stands up, musically, historically, and purely cinematically, amidst the three decades – and insurmountable flood of Presley “tributes” – which have followed. So then I do suggest you watch it today, and watch it often (followed, if you dare, with Allan Arkush’s Elvis Meets Nixon, to pick the story up where Carpenter and Russel leave off).
Then, of course, pull out all the old RCA and especially Sun tracks that you can, and marvel anew at the real thing as well, don’t forget. 

DELANEY DAVIDSON "Self Decapitation"

(Voodoo Rhythm Records) Though he often performs live as a “One Man Ghost Orchestra,” most of the tracks on this New Zealander’s new CD have plenty of guest musicians to liven up the sound. Often straying into cabaret territory, he’s no Tom Waits clone. Swampy, rootsy and atmospheric, the mixture of influences here leads to many pleasant surprises.

Monday, March 22, 2010


The Kneeanderthal Sounds Of
(Voodoo Rhythm Records) This CD is all over the place in terms of genres: there’s wild surf stuff, rockin’ hillbilly anthems, stripped down ‘50s rock’n’roll, and even some Mississippi blues skronk. It all has an otherworldly sound that is impossible to place in any particular time period, but it’s all done with plenty of energy and verve. Roots Rock cats will love!


I Will Be
(Sub Pop) Finally a release on Sub Pop that doesn’t sound like warmed-over GRAM PARSONS! This is a near-perfect mix of garage-rock and girl-group sounds, brilliantly produced by BLONDIE and GO-GOs knob-twirler Richard Gottehrer. Nothing particularly new here, but it all sounds sumptuous all the same.