A talented Texas singer-songwriter, Robison waxed a string of sometimes-thoughtful, sometimes-rowdy albums, starting with 1996’s Bandera. He lost his singing voice to surgery in 2018, but apparently regained the ability to sing just last year. Previously married to Dixie Chick Emily Erwin, he recorded a duet of “The Wedding Song” with Natalie Maines, and taped a stellar live version (below) with his sister-in-law Kelly Willis.
17-year-old Kathy Fletcher interviews Captain Beefheart, and discusses the origin of his and his band’s name, the group’s membership, and why their music is getting so popular. DIck Clark spins the Magic Band’s version of “Diddy Wah Diddy.”
Together with fellow New Yorkers Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer, Bob Feldman wrote the Angels’ “My Boyfriend’s Back” in 1964 and the McCoys’ (and later the Merseys’ and David Bowie’s) “Sorrow” in 1965. The trio of Brooklyn Jews also formed the faux-Australian beat group, The Strangeloves, who wrote and recorded “I Want Candy,” “Night Time” and “Cara-Lin.” The trio also produced (but didn’t write) the McCoys’ “Hang On Sloopy.” Feldman went on to work with other acts (including producing Link Wray’s 1971 self-titled LP), and among his three children is actor Corey Feldman!
This started out to be a post about how the Nightcrawlers’ “Little Black Egg” was covered by the Music Explosion, who then re-recorded it with new lyrics as “One Potato, Two Potato,” while One Way Streets re-recorded it with their own lyrics as “We All Love Peanut Butter.” But then this delightful homemade ode to “papa’s favorite song” presented itself.
These November 1976 tracks were recorded during the sessions for the bandâ€™s 1977 debut album, and served as a studio soundcheck for engineer Glen Kolotkin. With tape rolling, the band ran through eleven songs, live and without second takes or overdubs. The on-the-fly mixes arenâ€™t perfect (though quite good!), but the sound quality is excellent, and the spontaneity, energy and attitude they capture show off a more raw and edgy (and at times wonderfully adolescent) side of the band than did the debut LP.
The song list includes early Rubinoos originals and covers drawn from the bandâ€™s varied influences. Jon Rubinâ€™s voice is sweet and the signature group harmonies are tight, but thereâ€™s a level of aggression thatâ€™s more reflective of the bandâ€™s live set than their studio recordings. Hearing the group rage through the Psycotic Pineappleâ€™s â€œI Want Her So Badâ€ (written by the Rubinoosâ€™ Tommy Dunbar) shows off the bandsâ€™ shared roots, and the inclusion of the national anthem of bubblegum music, â€œSugar, Sugar,â€ as well as a mash-up of â€œPepsi Generationâ€ with King Curtisâ€™ â€œMemphis Soul Stewâ€ displays the sort of provocative choices with which they bewildered live audiences.
The band covered the Beatlesâ€™ â€œShe Loves Youâ€ and â€œI Want to Hold Your Handâ€ with talent and joy, and added to their catalog of DeFranco Family covers (which began with their first Beserkley single, â€œGorillaâ€) with a raunchy take on â€œHeartbeat, Itâ€™s a Lovebeat.â€ Rubinâ€™s soaring vocal on the bubblegum-soul â€œNooshna Kavoltaâ€ is nearly overrun by the charging guitar, bass and drums, and the Venturesâ€™â€œWalk Donâ€™t Runâ€ provided a young Tommy Dunbar the opportunity to show off his formidable guitar-playing chops. Closing the album is a cover of Jonathan Richmanâ€™s â€œGovernment Center,â€ complementing the earlier Beserkley Charbusters version on which the Rubinoos backed Richman.
Live and studio recordings of a San Francisco pop-punk legend
At the dawn of punk rock and the new wave, San Franciscoâ€™s Readymades sparked both fanship and controversy. Fanship for what New York Rocker described as a blend that leaned â€œtowards the power and simplicity of punk and the accessibility of pop.â€ Controversy for much the same thing. Readymades lead singer Jonathan Postal had been the short-lived founding bassist of the Avengers, but after realizing his original songs werenâ€™t going to get air time (and seemingly getting ghosted out of rehearsals), he formed a new band with more like-minded mates. As heard here, the Readymades certainly retained the energy of punk rock, but with melody, harmony and often a theatricality that was more rock â€˜nâ€™ roll than punk.
The band quickly shot to local fame, gaining a contract for a 3-song EP on Automatic Records after their first show at the Mabuhay Gardens, and quickly lining up opening slots for touring acts that included Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Blondie, Roxy Music, and the Police. They toured the west coast, playing dates as far north as Bellingham and Vancouver, and bringing the San Francisco scene to University of California campuses in Santa Cruz and Davis. They turned down an invitation to record for John Cale on his Spy label, and recorded demos with major label macher Sandy Pearlman. They garnered praise in local, national and international publications, and yet, in the end, failed to release anything on vinyl beyond two EPs and a few compilation tracks.
Why the band failed to gain a major label contract isnâ€™t well documented, though it seems that internal artistic tensions split the group apart after only two years. Postal, who has a BFA in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute, built a career as both a commercial and fine arts photographer, and more recently as a guitar luthier. The bandâ€™s co-songwriter, keyboardist, saxophonist and musical director, Morey Goldstein, continued to make music with bands (including Big Bang Beat and the Zasu Pitts Memorial Orchestra), on-stage and for video games, before passing away in 2008. Guitarist Ricky Sludge (nee Eric Lenchner) continued to make music with the Dinos and Ultras, and teaches music through his Professor Sludge Academy.
In 2009 the Rave Up label gathered together many of the bandâ€™s recordings for the vinyl LP San Francisco – Mostly Alive, and Liberation Hall (which is reissuing several early titles from the 415 Records catalog) offers a playlist that adds three live cover songs. The collection opens with â€œ415 Musicâ€ from the like-titled 1980 label compilation. Surprisingly,Â the song and the label took â€œ415â€ from the California penal code for disturbing the peace, rather than the local San Francisco area code. The songâ€™s amped-up atmosphere disguises a cynical take on punk rockâ€™s â€œwhite boys making white noise,â€ and highlights the in-betweenness of the Readymades highly-charged, but musically fluent music. Similarly, â€œHereticsâ€ melds punk rock energy and harmony vocals in its tribute to 415 founders Howie Klein and Chris Knabâ€™s late-70s radio show.
At the time, Postal characterized the bandâ€™s lyrics as being â€œthings we think aboutâ€¦ day to day stuff.â€ This included wondering about Supergirlâ€™s indestructible hymen (perhaps a tip of the hat to Larry Nivenâ€™s science fiction story â€œMan of Steel, Woman of Kleenexâ€), the impact that technology has on children in the pure pop â€œElectric Toys,â€ the pacified escapism of the New York Dolls-styled â€œEdge City,â€ and the sterile post-disaster society of â€œAfter the Earthquake.â€ The kiss-off â€œHurry Up and Goâ€ trods more familiar lyrical ground, but includes the novel refrain â€œIâ€™ll remember the good times when youâ€™re gone,â€ and â€œTrying to Grow Upâ€ finds itself between childhood and adulthood with the sentiment â€œI still act like a child, but I look like a man.â€ Thereâ€™s Bond-meets-the-Stones reverb and sax in â€œSpy,â€ and the influence of Bowie and the Velvet Underground on â€œTerry is a Space Cadet.â€
After being in the thick of New Yorkâ€™s underground scene with the Neon Boys, Television and the Heartbreakers, Richard Hell founded the Voidoids with guitarists Robert Quine and Ivan Julian, and future Ramones drummer Marc Bell. The quartetâ€™s 1977 debut was headlined by Hellâ€™s anthem â€œBlank Generation,â€ and became a touchstone for the nihilistic themes, cynical attitudes and rejection of societal norms that would come to define the sceneâ€™s musical, intellectual and sartorial aesthetics. Hellâ€™s disenchantment with touring, the music business, and a deepening drug addiction led to a four year gap before he and the reformed Voidoids (then consisting of guitarists Quine and Juan â€œNauxâ€ Maciel, and drummer Fred Maher) recorded this second and final album.
By the time of the albumâ€™s 1982 release, Richard Hell was thirty-two, punk rock had been supplanted in public spaces by the more commercially digestible new wave, and the underground had morphed into indie and hardcore scenes. The reactionary societal repudiations of the debut had given way to more ruminative views, but Hell had become impaired by addiction, and his sporadic involvement in the sessions led to disappointment in arrangements and production that didnâ€™t match his conception of the songs. Upon regaining rights to the album some years later, Hell removed it from print, with a wish to remix it more to his liking. But with the original multitracks having been lost, his wish was put on hold until he discovered a cassette of the albumâ€™s rhythm tracks. This opened the door to re-record the album with new vocals, and new guitar leads by Bill Frissell, Marc Ribot, and original Voidoid Ivan Julian.
The results of these sessions were released in 2009 as Destiny Street Repaired. â€œRepairedâ€ is a figurative description, since the albumâ€™s breakage was in Hellâ€™s artistic soul, and the repair was more of a reimagining. Think of Brian Wilson finishing the Beach Boysâ€™ Smile,Â rather than Paul McCartney stripping Phil Spector from the Beatlesâ€™ Let It Be. The urge to revise strikes artists of many media, and the twenty-seven year gap between the original album and the remake created interesting artistic resonances. The almost-sixty-year-old Hell revisited works from his thirties with new compadres and a guitarist whoâ€™d accompanied him in his twenties. Further twisting the timeline, the title track features a narrator visiting himself ten years earlier, a song that Hell himself was revisiting many years later.
A decade after repairing the album, three of the four original 24-track master reels were found, and together with the Yeah Yeah Yeahsâ€™ Nick Zinner, Hell indulged his original desire to remix the original performances. With only three-fourths of the masters available, tracks from Repaired were used to fill in the holes. This Remixed version provides a halfway house between the Remastered original and Repaired revision. Fans of the original album get (mostly) the original performances they grew to love, while Hell gets closer to the sonics heâ€™d originally envisioned. And if three different versions of the album isnâ€™t enough, this set adds demos, the original Nick Lowe-produced single versions of â€œThe Kid With the Replaceable Headâ€ and â€œIâ€™m Your Man,â€ the 1980 single of â€œTimeâ€ b/w â€œDonâ€™t Die,â€ and a live recorsing of â€œTime.â€ When they say â€œcomplete,â€ then mean â€œcomplete.â€
So how do they compare? The original album still stands strong, Hellâ€™s dissatisfaction notwithstanding. Quine and Naux took Hellâ€™s absence as an opportunity to cut loose, and despite the songwriterâ€™s reservations, his writing was strong enough to withstand the guitar and sonic assaults. If Hell was impaired by despair and drugs at the time, it seems to have fueled passion in his vocals, both on the original songs and covers of the Kinksâ€™ â€œI Gotta Move,â€ Dylanâ€™s â€œGoing Going Gone,â€ and Themâ€™s (by way of the Little Boy Bluesâ€™) â€œI Can Only Give You Everything.â€ The Remixed edition widens the originalâ€™s near-mono soundstage, and unlike stereo renderings of powerhouse 1960s singles, the expansion offers more instrumental detail without dissipating the punch of the performances.
The Repaired edition offers the biggest changes, with guitar parts that are informed by the originals, timeboxed by the vintage rhythm tracks, and exciting in original ways. Hellâ€™s vocals are born from the original writing and cover selection, but with decades more experience, and vocal chords that werenâ€™t worn out by a lengthy music career. Hellâ€™s singing is strong throughout, and while the original vocals often feel reflexive and instinctual, the new recordings seem to be informed by additional decades of perspective. More ego, less id, and in some ways like alternate takes made after a twenty-seven year smoke break. Perhaps the best test of the Repaired versions is how seamlessly these versions fill the holes in the Remixed edition – sonically, theyâ€™re a close match, and attitudinally they still seem to capture the earlier zeitgeist.
Hellâ€™s most covered song, â€œTime,â€ provides the albumâ€™s most poignant moment, as the then thirty-something songwriter opined, â€œOnly time can write a song that’s really really real / The most a man can do is say the way its playing feels / And know he only knows as much as time to him reveals.â€ Listening to him sing the lyrics nearly three decades later on Repaired is to hear a writer taking a note from his younger self, a reminder that every age is a way-station, informed by life to that point, but never fully realized. Itâ€™s a fascinating example of prophecy colliding head-on with memory.
Bedtime features songs of comfort and reassurance that will help send a young childâ€™s worried mind into dreaming wonder. Rogers addresses a common childhood concern on â€œNighttime Sounds,â€ turns existential for â€œWhen the Day Turns Into Night,â€ and closes out the theme with â€œPeace and Quiet.â€ Youâ€™re Growing highlights the momentous physical and emotional growth that comes in a childâ€™s early years – changes that are often confusing or frightening. You Are Special centers on acceptance, self confidence and individual empowerment, and Coming and Going is about new experiences and the comfort of the familiar. The latter visits the Neighborhood of Make Believe for several songs.