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.
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.
1982 debut EP of irreverent, pointed and catchy pop-punk
San Franciscoâ€™s Pop-O-Pies may have been one of punk rockâ€™s most melodic bands. Punk in attitude more than sound, but punk nonetheless. They alienated and then enthralled early audiences by playing a set that consisted entirely of the Grateful Deadâ€™s â€œTruckinâ€™,â€ and wrote original songs that sarcastically appraised Catholics and cast cops as donut eating fascists. A 1983 opening slot for Iggy Pop in Seattle so agitated the crowd that by the time the headliner appeared the mood was incredibly dark; fittingly, Popâ€™s set ended in 30 minutes after some stage-dancing audience members toppled the speaker stack into the crowd.
The bandâ€™s debut, the six-song The White EP, was a college radio staple, with two versions of â€œTruckinâ€™â€ (one pop-punk, the other styled like â€œRapperâ€™s Delightâ€), an ode to Timothy Leary (which the LSD guru apparently took to playing at his public appearances), the hard-driving rhythm guitar monotone â€œFascists Eat Donuts,â€ sing-song reggae â€œThe Catholics Are Attacking,â€ and punk-styled lament â€œAnna Ripped Me Off.â€ The Pop-O-Pies simultaneously take the piss out of both their subjects and their listeners with songs that are funny, ironic, serious, irreverent, pointed and catchy, all at the same time.
The dream duets of a singer, producer and music fan
The role of vintage Top 40 radio canâ€™t be understated in its influence and impact on the generation of musicians who grew up in the â€˜60s and â€˜70s. In the years before consultants balkanized commercial radio into genre islands, AM radio offered a regionally-influenced mix of pop, rock, folk, country and soul that fueled the taste and imagination of both listeners and artists. Olson grew up in Austin, Texas listening to long-gone (and now surprisingly obscure) KNOW-AM, taking in the wide variety of influences reflected in this eclectic collection of covers. This follow-up to 2013â€™s Have Harmony Will Travel cherrypicks Olsonâ€™s deep musical memories of the Buffalo Springfield, Searchers, Governor Jimmy Davis, David Allan Coe, and adds songs, such as the previously unrecorded â€œHaunting Me,â€ that she picked up in her musical travels.
Olson pairs herself with compatriots and idols that include Gene Clark, Percy Sledge, Peter Noone, Terry Reid, Mick Taylor and Mare Winningham. The album opens with the Long Rydersâ€™ Stephen McCarthy joining Olsen for a superb cover of Patty Lovelessâ€™ 1989 country hit â€œTimber, Iâ€™m Falling in Love.â€ Slowed to a deliberate tempo, the duet parlays the originalâ€™s ecstatic declaration into a mature, deep-gazing conversation of magnetic mutual attraction. For much of the album, Olson acts more as ringmaster than singing partner, drafting participants (including former Bee Geesâ€™ guitarist Vince Melouney for a gallop through Governor Jimmy Davisâ€™ â€œShackles & Chainsâ€), selecting song with the ears and heart of a music fan, singing harmonies and producing tracks.
As a producer, Olson fits the guests with songs, complimenting the pairings with nostalgia-tinged, guitar-based arrangements. Peter Noone rekindles the emotional throb of his early days with a cover of the Searchersâ€™ â€œGoodbye My Love,â€ and Olson provokes appealing contrast in pairing the gravel of Terry Reidâ€™s voice with the gentility of â€œScarlet Ribbons.â€ She joins Eagle Timothy B. Schmit and steel player Rusty Young for the Buffalo Springfield B-sideÂ â€œA Childâ€™s Claim to Fame,â€ and adds harmony to actress Mare Winninghamâ€™s fetching cover of Gene Clarkâ€™s â€œAfter the Storm.â€ The latter track, along with Percy Sledgeâ€™s â€œHonest as Daylight,â€ I See Hawks in L.A.â€™s â€œBossier City,â€ and Gene Clarkâ€™s â€œDel Gato,â€ were all previously released, but fit seamlessly among the newly recorded performances.
Screenwriter stretches out with 2-CD set of blues and more
Best known for his screenplays (Crossroads, Young Guns, Hidalgo, The Highwaymen), John Fusco shows again on his second album that heâ€™s no dilettante as a blues vocalist, instrumentalist, songwriter or band leader. Last yearâ€™s debut with the X-Road Riders grew out of some jam sessions with Cody Dickinson, and this yearâ€™s model doubles down with a 2-CD outing that splits the discs between two bands – one drawn from north of the Mason-Dixon line, and the other from south. Each band offers a number of influences, and across the two discs the set provides a variety of blues, soul, pop, gospel and rock. Fusco provides continuity between the two bands, but also takes the opportunity to launch in different directions with each.
The southern band (or â€œchapter,â€ as designated in the liner notes) fires on all cylinders for â€œBone Deep,â€ with Fuscoâ€™s raspy vocal underlined by Risse Normanâ€™s soulful singing, alongside harmonica, and guitar, and organ that brings to mind Booker T & The MGs. Sarah Morrowâ€™s trombone adds sly annotations and a solo to the cautionary â€œIt Takes a Man,â€ and Norman and Fuscoâ€™s back-and-forth duet highlights â€œDonâ€™t Mess Up a Good Thing.â€ Fuscoâ€™s vocals and piano take a turn towards Dr. John for â€œOphelia,â€ and Patrick Mossâ€™s fiddle accompanies lyrics of enduring love on the Chris Staplelton-like â€œApplejack Brandy.â€ Disc one closes with a ten-minute workout on â€œBad Dogâ€ and the not-at-all-subtle political right hook â€œSnake Oil Man.â€
Surprisingly, Rick Sheaâ€™s latest album doesnâ€™t sound particularly different from his earlier efforts, even though it was tracked remotely by musicians distributed amongst their own studios. Begun in the Spring of 2019 in Sheaâ€™s home studio, by early 2020 the collaboration had spread to multiple studios and was coordinated by e-mail and computer network. Incredibly, the album shows no seams or lack of group ethos, and though Shea tips his hat to the pandemic on a few titles, the songs donâ€™t evidence the Groundhog-like sameness that our collective shelter-in-place has brought to daily life.
The opening cover of Al Ferrierâ€™s rockabilly â€œBlues Stop Knockinâ€™ at My Doorâ€ takes in Lazy Lesterâ€˜s harmonica-driven Louisiana stomp, and adds accordion and guitar solos to the yearning, heartsick vocal. Sheaâ€™s low, slow â€œBlues at Midnightâ€ picks up the sorrowful mood as he suffers the late-night misery of being left behind, and â€œJaunita (Why Are You So Mean)â€ imagines the travails of Sheaâ€™s in-laws during their dating years. The albumâ€™s title track is dramatized from an autobiographical seed, and â€œDown at the Bar at Gypsy Sallyâ€™sâ€ takes a few liberties with the San Bernardino bar scene in which Shea cut his musical teeth.
As half (and in several cases, all) of the Righteous Brothers, Bobby Hatfieldâ€™s tenor was the emotional high-wire that supercharged the blue-eyed soul hits â€œYouâ€™ve Lost That Lovinâ€™ Feeling,â€ â€œSoul Inspirationâ€ and â€œUnchained Melody.â€ In 1968 his partner Bill Medley left the act, and by 1971, Hatfieldâ€™s pairing with the Knickerbockersâ€™ Jimmy Walker had also broken up. So it was with a solo career on his mind that he engaged with producer Richard Perry, who was hot off successful albums with Barbra Streisand and Nilsson. Initial sessions were held in the legendary Abbey Road studio in December 1971, with musical luminaries Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman, Al Kooper and Bobby Keys, and produced the single â€œOo Wee Baby, I Love You.â€ Hatfield was loose and ready to create new sounds as Ringoâ€™s drumming drew winningly on the Beatlesâ€™ â€œGet Back,â€ and a cover of George Harrisonâ€™s White Album-era â€œSour Milk Seaâ€ found Al Kooper banging away on piano as Hatfield exercised his falsetto.
A second set of sessions convened later in Los Angelesâ€™ legendary Western Studios (home to Phil Spector, the Beach Boys, and others), where a single was cut covering Lorraine Ellisonâ€™s â€œStay With Me.â€ Perry built the production with a full orchestra and chorus, and Hatfield lit it up with an impassioned vocal that echoes Ellisonâ€™s iconic original. The L.A. sessions also produced covers of Cole Porterâ€™s â€œIn the Still of the Nightâ€ (a song written for the 1937 film, Rosalie, and not, alas, the Five Satinsâ€™ 1956 doo-wop classic) and Billy Furyâ€™s â€œRun to My Lovinâ€™ Arms.â€ The former aligns with the Tin Pan Alley-era material that Hatfield recorded earlier in his career, while the latter overclocks the emotional tenor of the chorus similarly to Jay and the Americansâ€™ original.