Tuesday, December 26, 2006



I wasn't going to blog this week. Not many people are around, so why bother. Then I thought what the hell. Though I'm working through the holidays, there’s a lot of down time, so I've been rediscovering my collection. Digging out vinyl (I still have a turntable), cassettes (Lots of demos, airchecks and strange stuff there), CD's, I-Pod and of course XM. I let my 8-Track rest in peace. The following are a few thoughts from my formulative years. I tried to stay away from the obvious Beatles or Dark Side of the Moon...but not get TOO obscure....just a few random thoughts from the dusty collection...

THERE'D PROBABLY BE NO EDDIE VAN HALEN'S WITHOUT: The Ventures. Surf purists may prefer Dick Dale, but the Ventures were simple enough to learn from, original enough to create a "sound" and totally cool. The best era is the early and mid 60'd before they started doing Top 40 cover songs. Walk Don't Run and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue demonstrate mastery of the early Surf guitar.

ROCKERS COULD LEARN A FEW THINGS FROM THIS GUY: Chet Atkins. A lot of people think Country...and then you see he does songs like "Mr. Sandman"...then you listen and he plays so effortlessly...but DAMN this guy is amazing, partially because he DOES make everything sound so effortless.

THE PERFECT SINGLE: From the USA---Good Vibrations. Immaculate construction. Commercial perfection that was so damn original, if not revolutionary. . No wonder it sounds as fresh today as the second it was released.

MOST EXPERIMENTAL SINGLE: Telstar. The fist UK record to be #1 in the USA. Written and produced by madman Joe Meeks. Sped up pianos, slowed down toilets flushing and so much more sonic insanity... became an otherworldly smash. There had never been anything that sounded like this before on the charts.

SIMPEST SINGLE: Johnny Cash. I Walk The Line. Budget musta been ten bucks. I hear that the drums were actually brushes played on a phone book. Bare brilliance. Innocent. Spontaneous.

COOLEST SINGLE THAT WAS ACTUALLY KNIDA SAPPY: Our Day Will Come by Ruby and the Romantics. How can anyone NOT like this one....?

REALLY CLEVER ALBUMS NOT MADE BY THE BEATLES: The Who Sell Out. One of the most under appreciated early classic rock era albums. A concept album celebrating "Big L" aka Radio London, one of the Pirate stations off the coast of England. I guess it came out before the Who broke big...they were still a little culty back then in the pre Tommy days. But it was a joy to listen to, it was so...clever. The Yes Album. Critics hated them, they kinda got way off course (though remain a phenomenal live band), but in the Autumn of 1970 they recorded this epic that if a Yes hater would strap on headphones and actually listen to, would likely be converted. Cinematic production, exceptional musicianship and telepathic arrangements make this more of a journey than an album.

UNDER-RATED SINGER: Gene Pitney. For a white guy, he had some soul going on. Plus he wrote and arranged his material, but that voice is so emotion packed...yet honest. In an age where Male pop stars tended to be all about fashion, Gene was the real deal.

WEIRDNESS AT IT'S BEST: Freak Out by the Mothers of Invention. By today's standards, it’s not that weird, but back in '67, it was so incredibly sick and out there. Completely experimental but melodic (mostly), funny and mildly offensive for all the right reasons. Rumor has it that this album was recorded without drugs. Hard to believe.

MY FAVORITE FOLK ALBUM NOT BY BOB DYLAN: Gibson & Camp at the Gate of Horn. Funny, energetic, socially relevant in a 1962 way. A ton of fun to listen to...

THERE'D PROBABLY BE NO LED ZEPPELIN WITHOUT: Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, etc....the Blues giants.
At the time, I thought the original Blues versions were too loose, too organic and guys like Led Zeppelin made the songs palatable to the masses by infusing the electric British sound. In recent years, I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for the pure emotion transmitted in those early original recordings.

THERE'D PROBABLY BE NO ROCK N ROLL WITHOUT: The Crows and those early R&B artists. Kinda like the Blues thing where there was a generation of artists emerging that took that sound, ”cleaned it up" for the mainstream. Take that early R&B mix it with Country and even some Pat Boone and the cocktail became Rock n Roll. Yes---highly simplified, but the point is how absolutely critical to the mix the R&B bands were. Without them, The Beatles may have been cutting their teeth on the McGuire Sisters.

TWO GUITAR SOUNDS THAT OPENED THE EYES OF THE MAINSTREAM. Jeff Beck's scorcher in Shapes of things and the oddball 12 string in Eight Miles High. We'd never heard anything quite like those, at least not on pop radio. It opened doors.

WHY PETER GABRIEL SHOULD JOIN THE GENESIS REUNION. Watcher of the Skies, Suppers Ready and The Fountain of Salamacis. If you aren't familiar with those songs....listen to them.

BEST USE OF AN ORCHESTRA IN A POP SONG. I said I wasn't going to mention the Beatles, but they're the only ones that did it right.

BACK WHEN PROGRAMMERS WERE OPEN ENOUGH TO PLAY A FORIEGN LANGUAGE SONG. Sukiyaki by Kyu Sakamoto and Dominique by the Singing Nun both soared to #1. Both had great melodies and proved that the strength of a melody performed right could overcome the language barrier. I think that STILL exists, but most pop programmers and the label machinery is so hooked into the system that it'll probably never happen. Too bad, I’ll bet there are quite a few big hits from overseas that would make some noise here. Discovery knows no borders.

FIVE DEEJAYS YOU SHOULD GET TAPES OF. Back when DJ's were tied at the hip with the songs, instead of being disconnected card readers,”funny local morning guys" or simply annoyances. Try Alan Freed mid 50's as he was among the first. A pied piper for teenagers...the guy tour parents didn't want you listening too because you may hear that satanic "race music". Rick Shaw on WQAM mid 60's. The epitome of a guy completely connected to the streets of Miami. The Real Don Steele late 60's. One of the few guys that could take the ultra restrictive "Drake" sound and make it real. Oozed Southern Cal. Al Benson WGES early 50's. The voice of Bronzeville. A raconteur who was the voice of R&B to the South Side of Chicago. Allison Steele WNEW early 70's. A lethal combination of sex, soul and new music. Then there’s just about any all night guy on a big 50kw AM…especially the Country guys. Pure Americana. Folksy radio magic.

I continue to believe that you can't design the future without understanding the past...If you are old like me you'll remember this stuff...if you aren't old--check it out, it’s good for you.


At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The more obscure the better, you should have more shows that paly real vinyl. Little Radio plays vinyl all the time and it still sounds great.

At 6:47 PM, Blogger Charlie Kennedy said...

I'm here, Lee, and I thoroughly enjoy your weekly musings and pronouncements.

Have a successful '07.

At 12:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Foreign language hits ... There was one topping the charts less than a decade ago. Remember "Macarena"? So much for all recordings in a foreign language being works of genius, huh?

Please bring back QUALITY music in foreign languages. Dump the French-Canadian content (conceding the minuscule Canadian non-market to the Doggie if you must) and return WorldSpace's superior WorldZone to the satellites.

At 5:13 PM, Anonymous Joel Raab said...

Have you heard the stereo mix of Good Vibrations? It adds a whole new dimension to this great song. Happy New Year, Lee.

At 8:45 PM, Blogger Cygnus said...

Forget Gabriel; I'd settle just for Hackett being with this Genesis incarnation. I enjoyed the "Second's Out" rendition of "Supper's Ready."

With the banishment to online of Music Lab (grumble grumble, still), I'm grateful that Top Tracks plays so much of the Yes Album.

At 9:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Lee,

How about Crow-"Evil Woman"
Chase-"Get it on in the Morning"
Anything Tommy James including Alive & Kicking and my all time fav Blues Image-"Ride Captian Ride" Recently talked to Mike Pinera from Blues Image and he's still going strong with "The Classic Rock Allstars" and you can leave "Bongo Rock" and anything from Bo Donaldson off the list!

Mitchell "KC" Hill
WFIL '76-'78

At 9:04 PM, Anonymous palolo lolo said...

Votes for the Who Sell Out are ALWAYS

At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing that has bothered me about many radio people is there utter lack of knowledge of music outside their favorite format. of course we always find ways to get up to speed with a specific genre if we end up programming a station outside of our prime expertise.

One of the stations I'm programming is running "Modern Standards'. We play Sinatra,Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, Martin, Ella Fitzgerlad, along with everything from Michael Buble' to Big Bad Voo Doo Daddy, Brian Stezer,Diana Krall, Queen Latifah, & Harry Connick Jr.

You wouldn't believe the ignorance that many industry people have about this music. Consultants, PD's and jocks alike will label this as "Nostalgia" or "Memories".

Just because the electric guitar is not the prime component in this music doesn't make it out-of-date. in fact: Diana Krall, Norah Jones, Michael Buble' and many other current artists are decades younger than classic rock acts or oldie bands. Yet radio tends to categorize the music as 65+ radio.

In my mind as a longtime Rock & CHR PD, Frank Sinatra is about as cool of a figure as there ever was. There are more young artists tackling this music everyday, and I if targeted correctly, Modern Standards can be very successful.

Kevin Barrett

At 2:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't really understand the foreign language taboo. I've often wondered why XM doesn't do more to break this rule. This past year, I made an effort to get the new Christina Sturmer CD. Itunes had it, but they wouldn't let US residents download it. I ended up buying the CD on Ebay from a record shop in Austria. I also spent some time tracking down the Ukranian hip-hop CD from Stereoliza, which is in English, but had to be ordered directly from Ukraine. Right now I'm trying to get a Japanese Rita Coolidge CD which has a song which charted in 1971, "My Crew", which is otherwise unavailable on CD.

Right now, I feel as if the record companies are trying to tell me what I'm allowed to listen to and what I'm not. It would be interesting if XM would play some of this stuff that the record companies are not letting us hear.

Timothy Stockman

At 8:13 PM, Anonymous Russell Dugger said...

My Dad is a musician and big fan of Bob Dylan. I couldnt figure out how to send a message to him so i figured you would. My dad currently has two cds out and would like nothing better than to have Bob Dylan at least play 1 of his songs on his radio show. His first cd is sold out of shoprecords.com and the other out of our house in the phone # being (805) 238-3191. I know this may be too much to ask but id like nothing more than to see my dad happy.

At 12:20 AM, Anonymous TrevorLey said...

I backtracked to read this one. Great fun and almost like my own nostalgia stash. I was a proud member of the Ventures fan club....best was "The McCoy". Rick Derringer remembers it for sure. Chet Atkins....yes "Windy and Warm". Appeared on the Tonight show and played the melodies of "Dixie" and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home"....simultaneously! 12 years in Smooth Jazz and no one took my suggestion to cover "Our Day Will Come" Too busy with 100 versions of "I'll Be Around". Was the flip "Submarine Race Watching?". Pitney...agreed....lots of help from Bachrach too. For cool R&B....Clovers. All theirs were covered.."Devil or Angel" and "Love Potion #9". Kyu Sakamoto...had it memorized...no I don't know what it means, but laughed like hell when Jerry Lewis guest hosted for Carson and interviewed him....the guy knew no English! And for the morning zoo of the 1950's visit http://cordic-and-co.com/


Post a Comment

<< Home