Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SONG #140: Friends

Elton John, Friends Soundtrack, 1970

Forgive a sentimental fool his indulgences.

This track is a forgotten Elton John song from an even more forgotten film.  He agreed to do the music right before he exploded as a solo artist, and this album isn't usually included in his discography.  There are actually two great tracks on here-- this one, and a song called "Can I Put You On," which is on Elton's 11-17-70 album (by far his best, I think, but that's another blog.  But seriously, 11-17-70-- check it out.)

I've always had a soft spot for this tune-- I think the album cover is hilarious, it knows when to end (only 2:23, probably the exact length of the film's credits.  It used to be that a film's theme song had to be under three minutes for that reason) and it features Elton's pre-fame singing voice.  I love Elton's performances on his early albums, before he's a parody of himself and singing through a Donald Duck costume.

On his early records, John strikes me as a somewhat shy talent.  It's part of what makes those albums great.  The guy's obviously phenomenal, but he still has a memory of being unknown and a regular person.  Compare the singing on "Burn Down The Mission" to "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting."  They're both uptempo tracks, but the singing on the first one is earnest and in love with the music he's playing.  Just four years later, he had become an entertainer first and a musician second, and I think that's why he lost that quality and balance that made him special in the first place.  In a list of "Artists who lost their way," John would definitely make the top 10 (other finalists-- Rod Stewart, R.E.M., The Outfield).

On this song, John is at his most charming, unassuming and effortless, and while it's a breezy little tune without much heft to it, I think that chorus is a winner every time.  Try listening to it this morning and not singing "Making Friends!" spontaneously later in the day-- can't be done.  I like all the dramatic touches-- the string section on the first chorus, the late entry of the drums in the second verse, the introduction of backing vocals in the second chorus.  It's classic Elton John before there was such a thing-- it's like having a glimpse into the rough draft of a great book.  Just a year later, he had this formula perfected.

I actually chose "Friends" today, instead of obeying the rules of the shuffle, not just because I wanted to look up weird photos of Elton on Google (here's a few more):

uninhibited (adj) 1.not inhibited or restricted.  2. not restrained by social convention or usage

but because I've been overwhelmed by the response to the blog this past week. I've gotten hundreds of comments from old friends and new, and it's been great to hear from all of you.  I'm humbled seeing the faces of so many folks who are checking in and sticking with my ramblings.  Moreover, this song's sense of the passage of time and the resulting fragility of friendships resonated with me as I looked at the number of people who I haven't talked to in so long who are revisiting these songs and stories with me.

I'm on the road for the next several days, but I'll be hoping that "the day will be a lighter highway" for you, and I'm hoping to be back at it this weekend.  Thanks again for reading, and sometime this week put your favorite album on and enjoy some summer.

Too maudlin?  Perhaps, but I needed to offset the snarkiness of last week.  Maybe I'll do "Lonesome Loser" by the Little River Band next as an antidote.  See you soon--

(Yay-- it only took 140 songs for me to figure out how to embed a link.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

SONG #139: Angry Eyes

Loggins and Messina, Loggins And Messina, 1972

Some songs you need to keep close to you for completely random reasons.  Here's the story with this one, a hilarious country-rock monstrosity from the days of sleeveless, cable-knit sweater vests, awesome beards, and mid-song bass solos.

It is the summer of 1992.  I am driving across the country from California after my first year of teaching to go back home to Maryland for a few weeks in the summer because I basically can't figure out what else to do.  I am driving by myself, so I want to do the trip as fast as possible.  We are in the days before iPods or satellite radio, so the entire passanger seat of my car is a pile of tapes and CDs.  I don't have a CD player in my car (too fancy for me) so I have to use a Discman and one of those cassette adapters, which means I have to change the batteries every four hours or so-- there's also a huge stack of AA batteries in the glove compartment.

This is the itinerary that I follow:

Phase 1-- San Francisco to rest stop somewhere in Nebraska on I-80  (20 hours)

Sleep in back of car for six hours.

Phase 2-- Nebraska to Indianapolis, IN (spring for truly tragic hotel room) (17 hours)

Phase 3-- Indianapolis IN to Annapolis, MD  (11 hours)

That is a dumb, ill-advised way to travel across the country, but I was young and broke, and it made every conversation with every gas station clerk and Dairy Queen window attendant (and the cop who gave me a speeding ticket for going 68 in a 65) extremely meaningful.  Luckily, midwesterners are incredibly, genuinely friendly, so I had long conversations about corn-infused gasoline (Gasohol) and life in Iowa while filling either the car or me up.

On the way home, I've even dumber:

Phase 1-- Maryland to Champaign-Urbana IL to stay with friend from high school (hey, Sally).  (12 1/2 hours, plus a day of hanging out)

Phase 2-- Champaign-Urbana IL to... San Francisco.  Non-stop.  (34 hours)

You read that correctly.  I drove for 34 straight hours, by myself, from Illinois to San Francisco, across some of the most boring real estate in the world.  Why?  Because I could, I guess.  It was the kind of decision that a lonely, bored 22 year-old makes.  I thought I'd get back home and have more summer in CA.  Instead, the effort of doing that ridiculous leg made me sick as hell for a week.

Somewhere around 4am of that night, in the desolate Wyoming darkness, I realized that I wasn't what one would call completely awake.  I decided to see how long I could go without blinking.  I made myself blink at 45 minutes to make sure I wasn't dead.  I had entered a completely zen, half-life state.  I just guided the car's headlights in between the lines of the road.  I had not seen another vehicle, even a truck, for hours.  At 5am, I decided that I better pull over, so I paid attention for the next exit.

Have you been through Wyoming on I-80?  You get about five chances to pull over in the entire state.  I had just passed Rawlins, and the next town was Rock Springs, about 100 miles away.  The interstate was under construction, so there was no shoulder, and no rest stop.  Moreover, when I had last pulled over for gas at Midnight, a huge, filthy, drenched (it had been pouring) obviously insane hairy guy in a camoflage poncho with a hand-written sign saying "EAST" had asked me for a ride (happily, I was headed "WEST"), and he'd spooked me a bit about trying the "sleep in the rest stop" plan again.

So I had to grin and bear it-- I had gotten myself into this stupid mess, and now it was time to see how much I wanted to survive.  I was out of junk food and caffeine.  The Discman's batteries had given out, and I couldn't reach or find replacements.  Desperate, I turned on the radio for help.

Have you ever listened to Wyoming radio?  Not a lot of choices, especially in 1992.  Here's what scanning the dial got me on FM:

Bone-crushing static.
Bone-crushing static.
"Some people seem to think that the words of Jesus... are about peace.  WRONG!!"
Modern country music.
Bone-crushing static.
Bone-crushing static.
"Fiery pits of HELL!!!"
Modern country music.

That's it.  Two stations, equally unappealing.  The religious barker would have turned me away from God, and the modern country music would have made me crash the car on purpose to try to meet Him.  I began to panic, and switched to AM.

Scan... nothing.  I go around the WHOLE dial once without catching anything, but then my radio pulls up a miraculously clean signal of a station playing the very end of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Gimme Three Steps."

This song is what comes on next, and I'm a fan for life.  After these eight minutes, I feel like I've had a nap and a shower.  When I hit Rock Springs at 6:30am, I just kept on going and going and going until I was home.  "Angry Eyes" was my guardian angel.

If you had asked me to predict which song would do that, it would not have been this one.  Loggins* and Messina are responsible for two of my least favorite songs-- the "I'm so in love with you honey" song that people make bands play at weddings, and "House At Pooh Corner."  I have particular venom for that one because I've heard six or two thousand (I lost count) a cappella groups sing it, and I really dislike a cappella.  It's not just because in college the a cappella groups would draw 800 people to a show while the rock bands played to... the other fourteen surly guys in the other rock bands.  Well, maybe that's the main reason.  But I still hate it-- all the cutesy arrangements, and swaying back and forth, and "Let's all wear suits that we got for our Bar Mitzvahs" outfits, and the "Let's have the guy who can't sing do percussion" beatboxing, and the skits, and the cheesy, Broadway arrangements that ruin songs we all love-- I saw a group do "Where The Streets Have No Name," and half the band "sang" The Edge's guitar part through the whole thing by going "Dunka-dunka-dunka-dunka" over and over.  Some nights I still wake up screaming.  Yes, I'm bitter and judgmental, but so was Ethan Hawke in Reality Bites, and he was right about a lot of things also.  

Irony is when the actual meaning is the complete opposite from the literal meaning.

So those of you who were in a cappella groups, feel free to write in and defend yourselves.  Or, I can keep your identities secret, and you can continue to live taunt-free adult lives.  Your choice.

Back to Loggins and Messina.  Under any other circumstances, this terribly conceived song whose faults are numerous would never have garnered much attention from me, but it's precisely those faults that attracted my attention enough to pull me back into the land of conscious thought and safe driving.  

"Angry Eyes" is a really funny attempt to be a bunch of different genres all at once.  It starts off as a classic 70s swamp-rock tune, all Doobie Brotherish, but Loggins' twangy vocal puts us right into country singer-songwriter world.  The chorus invents the sound The Eagles would shamelessly rip off for the next eight years, and the lyrics are right up Glenn Frey's misogynistic alley as well (see Blog #17 for a more complete Eagles analysis)-- "Well I bet you wish you could cut me down with those angry eyes."  The lyrics to this song are a total throwaway.  Woman looks angrily at man.  Man notices.  Fini.

That covers the first minute, and the 2:25 single version never leaves that territory.  But at 5am, that DJ on that little tiny AM station wasn't about to be bothered changing a record that quickly.  I thankfully got the full, 7:45 minute album version,  'cause that's where the fun stuff is.  Things get very weird and quickly at 1:15.  Without warning, we get a full horn section playing a Steely Dan-style chart for twenty seconds, right into a BASS SOLO.  A bass solo ninety seconds in.  I can understand having a bass solo in a twenty minute epic, but after ONE chorus?  That's just lazy.  That's followed by a soprano sax and xylophone dueling solos section that continues for the next two minutes.  I am not inventing this.  You're listening to it, right?  Doesn't it sounds like the Stones' "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" played on the instruments they gave you to mess around with in elementary school music class?  That's when I really perked up in the car.  I thought I was hallucinating.  "Is that a... a xylophone?"  And it is.  NOT a vibraphone, the much more cool, electrified option, but an old-fashioned, "OK kids, now we're going to learn Pop Goes The Weasel" XYLOPHONE!  Needless to say, I was intrigued.

The guitar returns at 3:00, but the sax isn't done hitting that high note.  We get not one, not two, but three "WAAAAAAAAAAAA!!" from the sax player.  It cracks me up every time.  "Not yet!  Not yet!  This is my moment!"  By 3:30, we're in classic 70s guitar solo land.  This could be a Chicago track at this point.  At 4:00, the guitar starts to lose ideas or interests in things, and he plays a bizarre, angular figure that, in a live context, would mean "I'm done.  Someone else take it."  No such luck-- the band just keeps on goin', so the guitar has to also.  For another full minute!  It's the most tired, "I wish this were over" guitar solo I've ever heard on a studio recording.

At 5:00, the drummer suddenly switches to double time randomly, but no one in the band follows.  He tries again.  Strike two.  What is going to save this endless tune?  A FLUTE SOLO at 5:25!!  Seriously, were instruments just lying around?  Did the guitar player put down his guitar dejectedly, having failed the band and the track, see the flute, and think, "Ah, what the hell?"  Now we're in the Jethro Tull wilderness, all jazzy guitar single note arpeggios and a meandering flute.  It has been FIVE MINUTES since the band sang the chorus.  At this point, we're heading into prog-land.  This one minute section wouldn't be out of place on a Yes record.

And then... after almost six full minutes of some of the most random jamming committed to tape, we're back to the beginning!  The band gives us 45 seconds of pop-country rock, and even tries to join the drummer in double time for the last few seconds, and we're out.

It killed me, and I found myself blurting out the chorus randomly for the next twelve hours.  I couldn't wait to get home and tell people about this crazy track.  

And now I have.   


If I asked you to name the one song that got your heart racing, NO ONE would mention this one.  It's a time capsule relic.  But I don't care-- for the rest of my life, singing "Angry Eyeee-zzzzz!" will be like getting a Vitamin B-12 shot.

I always wonder who that DJ was who played me that song, who was bothering to broadcast anything to that empty section of Wyoming nothingness-- he must have been broadcasting from his car, since I was in the middle of nowhere and the signal faded to nothing five minutes after this tune.  I drove on and away, bringing, gratefully, this little piece of unforgettable detritus with me.

LINK:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oowuyzxgmtg

*  Kenny Loggins also wrote the theme songs for Caddyshack and Footloose, which deserve a loving blog of their own.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

SONG #137 & 138: Red Barchetta, Subdivisions

Rush, Moving Pictures, 1981
Rush, Signals, 1982

Hahahahahahahahahha!!!  Thank you, iPod.  I promise to be snarky in the next post, and you give me TWO Rush songs in a row?  Feed me, Seymour...

Let's just start with this question--  who of you reading this blog likes Rush?  Raise your cyberhands.  Go ahead-- no one can see you.

Thank you.

Here are my guesses about those of you who said yes.

1.  You are men.  Or, at least, males.  I have never met a woman who likes Rush.  Moreover, I have met several who HAAAAAAAAAAAATE them.  Give most women a choice between a long gynecological exam with Dr. Hairyarm and listening to two hours of Rush, and they'd say "Hmm... where did he get his medical degree?"  *

2.  You are musicians, and by that I mean that you had formal training on some instrument.  That way, you can appreciate the musical dexterity of Rush even when they're singing about celtic ruins, the apocalyptic future, or determinist philosophy.

2a.  If you are not a musician, you are at least 37 years old.  You had to be in middle school or above when this record came out to appreciate it as a pop record, something to listen to casually.

3.  You are a proud, defensive Canadian.

4.  You like at least two of the following:  science ficiton, 19th Century German culture, 70s horror films, independent comic books, Arby's Roast Beef.

5.  If you do not meet the above criteria, you are related to bassist/singer Geddy Lee, however distantly.

Rush is as much of a punch line as a band.  These poor guys are the band that NO ONE will invite to join the club.  They're like Anthony Michael Hall, Jon Cusack and the other guy in Sixteen Candles-- just not invited to the party.  And there's no Jake at the end to make them feel cool-- just a bunch of aging Star Trek nerds calling for an encore of "By-Tor And The Snow Dog."

They're not invited to the classic rock club with Zeppelin or the Stones or Aerosmith or even ZZ Top because they're too close to prog rock.  There is no Rush song about getting high or laid or sticking it to the man.  Lyricist Neil Peart is a smart, smart guy, and prefers to write lyrics about Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead.  Not that his lyrics are good-- most are wonderfully awful in a totally egghead way.  

Normal person:  Dude, did you fart?

Neil Peart version: My olfactory senses indicate the release of toxins from your system in a most distasteful way.  Beware our technology-driven future!!!

For all of their prog-rock leanings, though, Rush is excluded from that King Crimsony club as well for being silly.  We'll talk about their sense of humor in a minute.  There's no room for humor in prog-rock, so while fans give the time of day to Emerson, Lake and Palmer (at some point, we'll get to Tarkus), Rush is on the outside looking in.

They're certainly not invited into the art-rock band pantheon either.  Bands like Queen are forgiven their symphonic leanings and musical decadence.  You can't tell me that Freddie Mercury isn't equally weird as a frontman as Geddy Lee.  But no luck for Rush.  They remain one of the most critically hated successful bands of all time.  

Though people have told me that apparently there are new bands who list Rush as an influence, I could find no evidence of that on the net after 45 minutes of solid searching.  I did find some hilarious Rush fan sites, though, and most of them are run and inhabited by... you guessed it... the people I described above.

Rush is not in the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame, and as long as Jann Wenner controls who gets in, never will be.  Say what you want about whether Rush deserves it, but my argument is that if The Eagles get in, than you've set the bar low enough for Rush.  Or Molly Hatchet.  Or A Flock Of Seagulls.

In the Megan Slankard Band, when you make a mistake, you are outed by having me work the bass line to "Fly By Night" into the song as a musical insult.

They are, perhaps, the most uncool rock band of all time.  Guys in The Little River Band say to one another, "At least we're not Rush."

AND YET:  here's some trivia for you.

1) Name the only bands in history to have more consecutive gold albums (500,000+ sales) than Rush.

Answer:  The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.  That's it.

2) Which of these artists has sold the most albums: Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, Green Day, The Police, Motley Crue, Steve Miller, Rush?

Answer:  you guessed it: Rush.

Rush is a HUGE band.  For all of the grief that they take, and for all of the people claiming to hate them, SOMEONE is buying Rush albums.  40 million of them and counting, to be exact.

So I find Rush both hilarious and fascinating-- they are the band no one will admit to liking who millions of people secretly like.  They are the "shameful 1am stop at a Quickie Mart to get a snack" band.  They are the Hostess Ding Dongs of rock music.

So let's try to figure out what the deal is here, dammit.  

And let's start with some honesty.  


I kinda like Rush.  Matter of fact, there are about three dozen Rush songs on the list.

I was surprised also.  I've always assumed that I didn't like them.  And here's the thing-- I don't, in a lot of ways.  For example--

a) Geddy Lee's voice.  Lee might be the only singer who has improved with age.  As rock singers age, they frequently have to lower the keys of the songs, and it's usually a bummer.  Have you seen U2 lately?  Bono's lost the top five notes of his range.  But with Geddy Lee, that's a WELCOME change.  He's never sounded better, because in his youth he had one of the most shocking screeches I've ever heard.  On early Rush albums, Lee's voice is almost cartoonishly high and whiny.  He ruins some early songs for me with his voice.  Check out "Bastille Day."  The vocal is just all kinds of grating.

b) Neil Peart's lyrics.  I'm about to defend the lyrics to "Subdivisions" in a minute, and I actually like the lyrics to "Freewill," but a lot of his work is just absurd.  We'll deal with the lyrics to "Red Barchetta" in a minute...

c) Production choices.  Look, I played a synthesizer in my first band (a Roland Juno 106, which is suddenly in vogue again-- thank you, MGMT), and I know that we were all fired up about them in the 80s, but man, have some of Rush's albums aged poorly.  Rush's mid-80s albums are exactly what music should NOT sound like.  I cannot hear them without cringing.  I put on "The Big Money" for the Blog Gal the other day, and she looked at me as if I had just peeled off my skin to reveal another human being underneath.  It was mostly a look of total CONCERN-- there must be something wrong with me even to know about that song, let alone play it, let alone ON PURPOSE!

d) The "Goofy" factor.  The band has a irrepressibly nerdy sense of humor.  In concert, songs are sometimes introduced by little comedy videos.  Rarely are they funny-- they most resemble a middle schooler's extra credit project.  The dichotomy between the super-serious album art and lyrics and then the live presentation of that material is just downright confusing.  One does not inform the other; instead, they end up detracting from both.

That should be enough nails for the coffin, right?

But then, it turns out there are these mitigating factors:

a) Rush has one of the most organized catalogs in rock history.  The band, for its first 25 years, followed this formula:  4 studio albums, 1 live album.  Go check it out-- it's a riot.  An album every year for four years, followed by a live album with songs from those four albums.  The archivist in me truly appreciates that kind of anal organizational apporach.  It's easy to keep track of Rush.  No b-sides, no lost sessions, etc.

b) Neil Peart's drumming.  This guy can really really play.  Every drummer I know can play the fills from the end of "Tom Sawyer" out of genuine homage.  Moreover, he's an inspiring figure.  When Rush is on tour, he has the bus pull over 100 miles before they reach the venue, and he road cycles to the gig, and then plays drums for three hours.  Moreover, he lost both his daughter and his wife within 10 months of one another, and wrote a moving book about working through his grief.  He's a good guy.

c) Production choices.  Unlike the 80s albums, Rush's 70s albums are fascinating to me in their simplicity.  This band is a trio, and on most of their 1974-1978 output, there are almost no overdubs.  Of any kind!  There's the occasional sound effect, but on some of their twenty minute, side-long songs, seventeen minutes of it is a three-piece rock band playing together, without any studio trickery.  They're almost like a punk band in their musical approach.  Once again, consider "Bastille Day"-- the music mostly sounds like The Damned from a few days ago.  I'm not kidding.  They're the only band of their kind that took that approach-- most bands approached the invention of 24 track recording in the 70s like kids in a candy store.  Old Rush music is actually, to my shock, aging well because it lacks the extraneous overdubs that clog a lot of the music of that period (and Rush's later efforts, sadly).

d) The "Goofy" factor.  Geddy Lee appeared on a Bob and Doug Mackenzie single (please tell me you remember the film Strange Brew) for SCTV at the height of his fame.  In the album version, the boys thank Geddy for appearing, and he says, "Well... yeah, you know, my manager called me, and well... ten bucks is ten bucks."  He's a humble, down-to-earth, friendly, funny guy.  Canadian to the core, I guess.

(Here's a clip from the film.  I still know it by heart from 27 years ago.  


Best line in this clip: a tie between "Ok Ok, you boss me around..."  and "I believe they'll be no charge on this to for a... a beer, thank you."  Also love that the mouse they supposedly found in the beer is still alive.)

Max Von Sydow's greatest moment.

And finally-- Rush has been together now for 36 years with no changes to the lineup, no drug problems, no fighting, no Behind The Music embarrassments.  As we've all learned as we've grown up, nerds tend not to burn out and make for happy, productive adults.  Rush might be uncool, but they're one of the most high-functioning, happy success stories in rock history.  In interviews, they come off like a bunch of dorky junior high school friends.  They're the antidote for so many other sad outcomes.

So let's turn to two of Rush's biggest hits (the pod actually spit up "The Trees" instead of "Subdivisions," so I'm cheating a little bit).  "Red Barchetta" is from the band's biggest album, Moving Pictures.  It was everywhere when I was in fifth grade, and we knew it was a big deal because of the way the vinyl looked.  Most albums came with the normal corporate logo in the middle of the album, like this:


Check out Moving Pictures in contrast:

A specialty label!!  That's how you knew the band mattered.  Hell, even Dylan and Springsteen didn't get that treatment.

In the early days of MTV, the band provided videos for four of the album's tracks, and so they were on all the time (the channel didn't have very many choices yet, since it was totally racist in its programming until Michael Jackson).  We all knew this album really well.  It was a pop album for all intents and purposes, as hard as that is to imagine.  Even girls could tolerate it for a few months.

"Red Barchetta" starts with a chimey guitar figure, countered by Geddy Lee's oustanding bass intro.  Listen from about 0:15-0:35-- that is what I call a cool bass fill.  Things start to get dodgy quickly after that-- the song seems to be a ballad, and the lyrics seem to be telling a fictional story about an oppressive future:

My uncle has a country place
That no one knows about.
He says it used to be a farm
Before the Motor Law.
And on Sundays I elude the Eyes,
And hop the Turbine Freight
To far outside the Wire
Where my white-haired uncle waits.

Nothing more exciting than a song about an old man's secret farm.  Who's ready to rawk???  

The music picks up here, though.  Peart finally kicks in after a full verse of "Here comes the beat... Psych!" drum fills, and guitarist Alex Lifeson gets a chance to riff it up a bit.  No help in the lyrics department, though.

Jump to the ground
As the Turbo slows to cross the borderline.
Run like the wind
As excitement shivers up and down my spine.
Down in his barn
My uncle preserved for me an old machine
For fifty-odd years.
To keep it as new has been his dearest dream.

So it's a song about driving an old car.  Umm... that's sorta been done before, guys.  Like a billion times.  In iconic fashion.

I strip away the old debris
That hides a shining car:
A brilliant red Barchetta
From a better vanished time.
We fire up the willing engine
Responding with a roar.
Tires spitting gravel,
I commit my weekly crime.

Aha!  See-- in the horrible future, though cars are no longer allowed, our rebel character is going to pollute the air anyway.  Sorry, but in these days of global warming, a "Motor Law" sounds like a good idea to me.

At 2:30, we get the third musical idea in the song.  It's pretty cool, the kind of chordal riff that Pete Townshend likes to employ.  It's supposed to convey the thrill of driving, and it's certainly musically the best moment yet.  But--

In my hair
Shifting and drifting
Mechanical music
Adrenaline surge...

Well-weathered leather,
Hot metal and oil,
The scented country air.
Sunlight on chrome,
The blur of the landscape,
Every nerve aware.

Hoo boy.  If you have to say "Adrenaline surge" in a lyric, chances are there's not much surge happening.  The same rule applies to "Can I kiss you goodnight?"  If you have to ask, it ain't happening.

Out of the wreckage, though, comes the guitar solo at 3:20.  Here's the Rush sound I was taking about from the 70s.  There's just guitar, bass and drums.  The solo isn't even overdubbed!  Suddenly this song is completely empty, and you have three great players improvising together.  For about 25 seconds, Rush sounds like a badass, adventurous trio.  All three players are on fire.

Sadly, just as quickly, we're back to the silliness:

Suddenly ahead of me
Across the mountainside
A gleaming alloy air-car
Shoots towards me, two lanes wide.
I spin around with shrieking tires
To run the deadly race
Go screaming through the valley
As another joins the chase.

Now it's about an old, luddite car in a race with an air-car.  Damn technological advances.  Cars running on air.  How stupid!  The future is deplorable if we're not still dependent on fossil fuels.  Who's with me?  Peart seems confused at what he really wants here.

Drive like the wind
Straining the limits of machine and man.
Laughing out loud with fear and hope
I've got a desperate plan.
At the one-lane bridge
I leave the giants stranded at the riverside.
Race back to the farm
To dream with my uncle at the fireside.

Just when you're ready to toss this song in the "forget me" bin, back comes Geddy Lee with another fantastic bass fill from 5:15-5:45.  As much as I think this song is absurd, Lee's playing on the intro and outro knocks me out every time.

So the song stays on the Pod, even though it makes me laugh, and not in the good way.

That leads us to "Subdivisions."  Here's where I reveal what an inconsistent person I am.  Sonically, this commits all the sins I was talking about earlier.  HUGE synthy keyboards!  The guitar is buried under a layer of murk.  There are even two keyboard solos later in the tune.  The album cover is a great combination of dumb and dumber.

It's my favorite Rush song.

Why?  What's wrong with me?  Why should you EVER listen to me about anything?  Here's the deal-- these are Peart's best lyrics.  They are pretentious as usual, but he is DEAD ON.  Here's the first two verses:

Sprawling on the fringes of the city
In geometric order
An insulated border
In between the bright lights
And the far unlit unknown

Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided
The future pre-decided
Detached and subdivided
In the mass production zone
Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone

That perfectly describes the American suburbs of 1982.  I lived near three large "planned communities" who were still advertising themselves on TV when I was a kid.  They were places designed so you didn't have to make any choices.  There's the grocery store.  There's the gas station.  There's the pizza parlor.  There's the green outdoor space.  There's the freeway ramp.  There's the school.  There's cable TV.  Don't like it?  What's your problem?  These lyrics strike me as the perfect summation of the insidiousness of that approach to life.

Crofton, MD-- staying white out later since 1964. **

The robotic, synth-driven backing track fits these lyrics like a glove.  You feel like you're gliding through this description without taking root.  Then, for the chorus, the band drops the keyboards and Lifeson comes in with a tough guitar lick (and Lee drops another outstanding bass fill at 1:40 as a lead-in).

In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out
Any escape might help disprove the unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth

And now it's a song about social subdivisions.  Obvious, sure, but still effective.  The song becomes a mirror for the song "I Love The Night Life" from Blog #98.  Here's the same idea five years later, but Reagan is president, the disco party is over, and now we're in basement bars and the backs of cars drinking warm beer and waiting to go see Footloose.  Depressing.  Just like this song. 

Drawn like moths we drift into the city
The timeless old attraction
Cruising for the action
Lit up like a firefly
Just to feel the living night

Well some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight
Somewhere out of a memory of lighted streets on quiet nights

"Subdivisions" is the perfect soundtrack for America's early-80s hangover and submission to the "Morning In America" pitch.  When Lifeson finally tears into a guitar solo at 4:20, it sounds like an angry, helpless performance.  And listen to the end when Peart starts hammering the cymbals off beat.  Great, but ultimately powerless to elevate the track to some kind of uplifting finish.  What would Shakespeare say?  The band is full of "sound and fury, signifying nothing."  Peart would say "The band fails to establish a suitable sense of catharsis."  I say "Dude-- cool tune."

Great, totally weird stuff, this song triumphs over its own worst impulses.  Is Rush a great band?  Kinda.  Sometimes.  For a bunch of Canadians.  Sorta.  

How's that for a firm critical stand?

LINK:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAvQSkK8Z8U     (Red Barchetta)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lu9Ycq64Gy4      (Subdivisions)

* After writing the draft of this blog, I went out for dinner with friends, and my buddy's wife... loves Rush!  I was floored.  So now I have to add the addendum that you're either male... or Deb.  :)

** Credit to David Cross for the joke.  Also-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crofton,_Maryland

Monday, July 19, 2010

SONG #136: Tremor Land

The Welcome Matt, Digital Single, 2010

I've avoided writing about projects that I'm in until now, but the synergy here is impossible to ignore.


The Welcome Matt is the brainchild of Matt Langlois, one of the most beloved mainstays of the SF music scene.  I've known him for almost a decade now, and I've played with him in a number of different settings.  I'm writing about him today because:

a) I wanted to break the cone of silence about local bands
b) I want to talk about the uniqueness of his new project
c) I want shamelessly to promote his show this coming weekend.

So let's start with A.  In some ways, the blog is not set up for me to write about my friends, because I'm trying to be critical here and employ some needed distance, and I don't have much of it on music I help create.  Second, since things pop up randomly, I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings by writing about one person and then not doing another local artist for six months.  But I decided that was being dumb and overthinking things.  So forget A.

Much more interesting is B: instead of releasing his new music as an "album," Matt is in the middle of a project called Members Of Sound.  

He's writing and releasing a song a month for two years, and he just reached the halfway point.  Every month, Matt puts up a new single track on iTunes with unique cover art and a fresh set of collaborators (musicians, producers, studios).  The unifying theme of the project is writing about what it's like to be a working musician-- they are songs about Matt's life, but he's also writing about his peers and the struggle to maintain an artistic life in the face of bills and smaller crowds and rampant music piracy.  (No judgements-- just a fact.  In 1993, there would be 300 people packed into the Paradise Lounge on a Wednesday night to see a local band without any publicity.  Now, it takes six months of work and some good fortune to draw out 300 on a Saturday.)

I think Matt has hit on a brilliant way to address what music means in 2010 to most people and how to help them find it.  I wrote last week about my love for the single great track and how the current download-focused world of music consumption helps in that regard.  Matt has taken that to the next level.  While he is thinking of this project as an album that is coming out a song at a time, it's also 20 distinct musical interactions.  You can buy one, or six, or all, and still get the point.  You can choose the ten you like, make a playlist in your order, and boom-- there's your version of the album.  Now people can create the next Welcome Matt record to suit them.  Hell, I've done it-- I have a "Matt's Next Record" playlist and I've chosen the songs I like and put them in my order.  I'm sure Matt has his own vision, but that's the beauty of this idea-- we can both have control over it.

Moreover, Matt has something to offer you every month, instead of once every three years.  He could have put this music out as an album for 10 bucks, and then you'd have to wait another few years while he wrote the next batch of songs and made the money to pay for them.  Instead, you have a chance to have an new, fresh moment with his music for the cost of a soda every four weeks.  I think it's the most innovative, exciting use of this new technology and culture I've seen yet, and it's the artist recognizing and interacting with the audience.  Few people really sit and listen to albums anymore.  They hit shuffle.  It's the entire concept behind this blog, after all, and I'm an album nut.  Excitingly, Matt's approach is working-- his hits on Youtube are up, and I know more people are buying and hearing his stuff.

I've chosen "Tremor Land" as the one track to talk about because it's my favorite (and I don't play on it, you cynics, so back off).  I think the song is anthemic in a mid-80s U2 sense-- it has that pulsing drive in the verse, and the huge singalong chorus.  In some ways, it's a much more dramatic, bombastic track that Matt usually writes, but I think it's a style that fits him and his vocal perfectly.  It's also another in a series of terrific songs Matt has written about San Francisco.  The city itself is inspirational to Matt, and he's captured our place in 2010 really accurately here.  It's a song celebrating SF's willingness to be a refuge for us weirdos, while acknowledging that it's not the same place that it has always been.  It's no longer the home of the Ohlone, or the summer of love, or the gay rights movement.  It's still one of the most open-minded places in the world, but there's a Starbucks on every corner of it.  It's a "tremor land" not just because of the constant threat of the "big one," but because were in a state of shifting identity change.

When your body is broken, the fault line whisper has spoken
May you get back your health in the turning winds of tremor land
The outcasted and shunned follow the mirage of the setting sun
To the chants and drums of the medicine man of tremor land
Lost and awoken, unaware that their motion
In any direction moves them one step closer to the gates of tremor land
Come visit me in my city built on wooden ships and mercury
I don't know your secret, whatever it is though, you can keep it safe and sound
Deep in the heart of tremor land
Put your money down on the Ohlone holy ground
And plant your dreams in never-ending sky of fog rolling over tremor land
In the eucalyptus shade you hold through another phase
Let the breeze blow back your years in the shining waves of tremor land
Great sea captains sailed ferocious waves
Barely alive and freezing when the clouds parted, they sailed back to the bay of tremor land

I don't know if Matt intended it, but there's a terrific musical-historical double meaning to the first line of the chorus-- in a song about SF being a traditional if shaky refuge for alternative thinking, he recalls not just SF's port history ("wooden ships") and geological makeup ("mercury"), but uses language to remind us of SF's musical history: "Wooden Ships" was the 1969 Crosby, Stills and Nash anthem of the 60s counterculture that was part of Haight Street's soundtrack in SF's first musical heyday, and "Mercury" is a Counting Crows song released at the height of SF's second (and most recent) great arc in musical popularity.  It reminds us how musical history informs actual history.  A great song consciously or unconsciously works on those kinds of multiple levels. "Local" music, my foot-- "Tremor Land" is the real deal.  (Hopefully, we're at the start of a third SF arc-- there's so much great music in town right now, people!)

That leads me finally to point C: the inclusiveness of Matt's current project, and Saturday's show.  Because Matt did not go into the studio with five musicians and bang all his new tunes out, he has gotten over a dozen people involved, and the songs are unique from one another in some interesting ways.  What connects them all is Matt's voice and his songwriting, but each song has its own little personality.  That would never be possible in a traditional album setting.

So... we're playing this Saturday the 24th at Cafe Du Nord in SF, and we're celebrating the halfway point by playing these new songs as a set, or an album, if you will.  Most of the musicians from the recordings are joining in on "their" songs.  If you're a local, come on down and watch me help Matt bring "Tremor Land" to life.  In fact-- if you want a free ticket to the show, just shoot me a Facebook email, and I'll hook up the first ten people.  Seriously.  Free. Rock. Show.

Time to lighten things up a bit for the next post-- I'll trash something snarkily, OK?

LINK:  http://welcomemattsf.com/  (Just go to the music player on the top of the page and fast forward until you get to Tremor Land.  Then stay and check out the rest of the stuff.  See you Saturday?)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

SONG #131-135: New Rose, Neat Neat Neat, Anarchy In The UK, White Riot, In The City

The Damned, Damned Damned Damned, 1977 (New Rose and Neat Neat Neat)
The Sex Pistols, Never Mind The Bollocks... Here's The Sex Pistols, 1977 (Anarchy In The UK)
The Clash, The Clash, 1977 (White Riot)
The Jam, In The City, 1977 (In The City)

As a welcome to and celebration of all the folks who joined the blog's new Facebook group (thanks, everyone!), I thought I'd tackle a big one today.  

These five songs are the first singles by England's most important punk bands, released from October 1976 to April 1977.  Taken together, they represent the first definitive chapter in the history of punk rock in thirteen minutes.  (Before you Ramones fans start writing angry emails, the equivalent American moment would be Chapter Two.)

I can't add anything about the history of punk rock that fans of this genre don't already know, but for those of you coming to these songs fresh, here's some quick context.  In 1976, the British economy was in the tank.  Unemployment was rampant, the far-right National Front party was gaining momentum, and a generation of kids was bored and bereft of ambition and any sense of a prosperous future.  Moreover, rock music was no longer a music of the people.  In 1966, you could become a band once you had a garage in which to practice.  By 1976, rock was slick, big business. The music industry made more than the film, television and print industries COMBINED.  To break in, you had to be a "musician,"  and you had to have connections.  The angry young men of the 60s had become rich, distanced celebrities in the 70s, and those early heroes' albums about the pains of bring rich were falling on deaf ears.  (As an example, David Bowie and Eric Clapton both made cryptic, pro-fascist comments in 1976, which they druggily retracted weeks later.)  Moreover, rock shows were now happening in 20,000 stadiums instead of 2,500 seat theaters; the band was expensive to go see and far away once you got there.

Looking for a way to get in on the party, younger Brits started to play a style of music called "Pub Rock."  It was essentially a revved-up version of old rock 'n' roll and rockabilly from the 50s played in bars for people who couldn't afford to go see shows in rock's new palaces.  Future New Wave stars like Nick Lowe and Joe Strummer cut their teeth in regionally successful but now-forgotten pub rock bands from 1974-1976.

Here's a perfect example of pub rock, from Joe Strummer's band The 101ers:  

In it, you can hear what I'm talking about.  It's a 50s rock song at punk speed.  It has the energy, but it's basically just another song about rockin' and girls and good times.

By the end of 1976, though, kids were sick of singing about good times.  Bands started to come together and sing about being poor and on unemployment, of living in run-down public housing, of feeling oppressed by England's strict, conformist caste system.  They started to rip up their clothes and pierce themselves.  When they tried to play in pubs, they were laughed away, so they rented warehouses and put the shows on themselves.  An anarchic spirit ruled-- the distance between band and audience disappeared.  Audience members jumped up on stage, screamed into the mic, and jumped back off.  Rather than dancing in couples, the audience just pogoed in place or slammed into one another.  One night, the audience started spitting at the performers.  The band spit back, and the dreadful British tradition of "gobbing" was born.

Unlike a lot of the American punk movement, these weren't bored suburban kids tired of hanging out in malls or art-school students.  These were poor, angry urban kids.  They were slight and artsy, but they were also tough and uncompromising.  And in about six months, they shook British society to its knees in a way that's inconceivable today.

How much of a change of pace was punk rock in its time?  It's really hard to remember listening to these songs now-- they sound like regular ol' rock music, don't they?  Do they sound like the end of civilization to you, as they were described as being?  

One has to remember and consider the context-- Studio 54 opened the same week that "In The City" came out.  Fleetwood Mac's Rumours was the #1 album in the world.  The #1 song of 1977 was "Tonight's The Night" by Rod Stewart.  While Rolling Stone named the Sex Pistols' album as the best of 1977, the next three albums on its list were Hotel California by The Eagles, Rumours, and JT by James Taylor.  Bob Seger's "Night Moves" was their single of the year.  (The readers added Jackson Browne's The Pretender to those choices.)*  Disco was just beginning to replace singer-songwriter confessional rock as the the most popular music on earth.  Music was quiet and slick and professional.  Go back and listen to some of the earlier 70s blog entries; it sounds like a different world.

In that universe, these songs were atomic bombs.  They were recorded in hours, released in days, and then discarded for the next event just as quickly.  I think the speed with which punk rock overtook England was perhaps the most fearful thing about it to English society.  In a country famous for slow-moving social change, punk rock must have seemed like an invasion from another planet.  The Beatles had broken up only six years before this music announced itself.  In 1969, the police stopped The Beatles from performing at lunchtime on the roof of Abbey Road because it was inconveniencing and distracting drivers and pedestrians.  Six years later, The Sex Pistols went on TV and called their interviewer a "dirty f**er" and a "f**king rotter" without remorse or apology.  The loss of control, the "Anarchy In The UK" that these pimply, filthy little ungrateful gits were calling for must have seemed imminent.

An anecdotal example of how fast things were moving: young Paul Weller was in a band, but wasn't sure what he wanted to sound like.  In late 1976, he saw The Clash live.  In April, he had already transformed The Jam, played enough shows to attract label attention, and released "In The City."  That's less than a year from "My mates and I have a high school band" to a major-label, top 40 single.  That's how fast things were moving, and it freaked slow-moving England out considerably.

I've been listening to these tunes over and over for the last few hours (combined with a few cups of strong coffee-- I've got my own kitchen table mosh pit going here), and they are remarkably transporting for me.  I was not old enough to experience these songs in real time.  When I discovered them in 1981 (through falling in love with The Clash and working backwards), both The Damned and The Sex Pistols were gone, and by 1983, The Clash and The Jam were done as well.  It didn't matter; the music sounded like a fresh, immediate call to arms to me.  Even as a suburban bored American kid, these songs were unlike anything I'd heard up to that point; it was music that made me want to DO something.  I felt challenged to care about stuff by it.  It was punk rock that turned me from a guy who played music into a musician.

Let's take these tunes one group at a time.  The Damned were actually the first punk band to put out any so-called "punk" music.  I don't know why they have never received the same critical love as their fellow 1977 contemporaries.  They definitely never made a dent in America, and even by 1981 when I started to devour this stuff, nobody mentioned The Damned to me.  It wasn't until I went to England for the first time in 1986 that I could find any of their albums and realized that, over there, The Damned were considered essential pioneers.

The only Damned album I ever found in an American record store until the late 90s.

To my 2010 ears, The Damned have aged well, far better than a lot of one-hit wonders from the era.  These two singles for me bridge the gap between pub rock and punk rock.  Punk rock's new energy and aesthetic are definitely in place.  I love the way "New Rose" ends, with a crescendo and everyone playing as hard as he can.  The drums sound fantastic still, especially at the top of the song.  In "Neat Neat Neat," the band shows an understanding for dynamics, bringing things down after the guitar solo.  (The second track was produced by Nick Lowe, who went on to produce Elvis Costello, and then have hits of his own.)  The lyrics have yet to progress beyond rock's major preoccupations, though.  "New Rose" sounds like it must be about something weighty, but it's just about a new girlfriend.  I can't tell what "Neat Neat Neat" is about-- it sounds cool, but it's fairly impenetrable: it strikes me most as a bad attempt at sloganeering.

Be a man, can a mystery man, 
Be a doll, be a baby doll, 
It can't be fun not any way, 
There can be found no way at all 

A distant man can't sympathize 
He can't uphold his distant laws
Due to form on that today,
I got a feeling then I hear that call, I said 

Neat neat neat, she can't afford a cannon, 
Neat neat neat, she can't afford a gun at all
Neat neat neat, she can't afford a cannon, 
Neat neat neat, she ain't got no name to call
Neat neat neat 

No crime if there aint no law
No more cops left to mess you around
No more dreams of mystery chords
No more sight to bring you down

I got a crazy, got a thought in my mind
My mind's on when she falls asleep
Feelin' time in her restless time
Then these words upon me creep, I said 

Perhaps The Damned didn't make it over here because they were seen as not serious enough (they also didn't have the songwriting chops of The Clash and The Jam).  They were funnier than most punk bands-- the rhythm section went by the names Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies.  They also were not as interested in anarchy and destruction of the past as their peers.  The Sex Pistols fired original bassist Glen Matlock for saying in an interview that he liked The Beatles.  In contrast, the B-Side to "New Rose" is a cover of "Help!"  In the end, The Damned are probably more beloved in America today than ever, and I think both these tunes hold up.  They were simultaneously the first punk and last pub band.

Just a month later, The Sex Pistols raised the stakes for good.  "Anarchy In The UK" has to be up there with just about any other first single as the most shocking debut in rock history.  ("Straight Outta Compton" belongs on that list too.)  The band's story is available in tons of places, so let's focus on the tune itself.  The musical intro is fairly pedestrian, actually-- it's a mid-tempo arrangement with a guitar sound that would have fit in on plenty of any other 70s albums.  Throughout the song, the band's surprising competence and plodding groove now sounds a little funny.  If all you played someone was the backing track, I don't think this song would scare anyone; you might be able to use it to sell cars or cell phones.  

It's singer Johnny Rotten that steals the show here completely.  His "Right!" that announces his presence establishes the confrontational nature of the song, the band, and the punk movement from that moment forward.  Unlike The Damned, The Sex Pistols announce open war on British culture in these four minutes;  "I am the anti-Christ / I am an anarchist / Don't know what I want but I know how to get it / I'm wanna destroy the passerby / Cause I wanna beeeeeee / Anarchy!"  Now THAT'S a punk lyric.  In the song's final verse, Rotten lists a bunch of governmental acronyms that annoy him.  I still don't know what he's talking about, but it doesn't matter.  It's a song about rage and frustration as government and systems in general.  

The Sex Pistols came to represent everything shocking about the punk movement.  They were in the papers or on TV almost every day in 1977.  As a result, they imploded immediately, and their one album is as much of a cultural artifact as a listening experience.  I like it, but I'll probably never listen to it on purpose again.  It's the aural equivalent of The History Channel.

While the Pistols took all the attention, The Clash and The Jam had the chance to develop into actual bands. with something musical to say.  Over its six year existence, The Clash would make a series of albums that showed a prolific growth, innovation, courage and musicality that rivaled The Beatles.  They were without question the best band in the world from 1979-1982, and outgrew the punk scene and its limitations almost immediately.  In fact, even on the first album they sought the universality of being a rock band for everyone-- the last song on the album was about coming from "Garageland."

None of that is very clear from The Clash's debut single, "White Riot."  To American audiences, "White Riot" must have been confusing at first-- with all of the skinhead imagery connected to the punk aesthetic, it would be easy to hear this song as a call for a race war.  In fact, it's Strummer challenging white London teenagers to stand up for change in the way that blacks had in a standoff with police at the Notting Hill Carnival in 1976.  Instead, "Everyone's doing just what they're told to / 'Cause nobody wants to go to jail!"  Horrified by the US' misinterpretation, The Clash would embrace reggae music and musicians throughout their career, and played one of its final shows as the only white band on the bill at the Jamaican World Music Festival in May of 1983.  

While "White Riot"'s lyrics are certainly dated, the music is still breathless and exciting.  When people think about punk rock in its most elemental form, they should consider this track Exhibit A.  I love the sloppy lead guitar playing by Mick Jones on the end of this track-- it sounds like a bad imitation of "You Really Got Me," and it totally works.  Strummer's vocal is also impassioned, even if you need a lyrics sheet to follow him most of the time.  My favorite line:  "All of the power in the hands / Of the people reaching out to buy it / While we walk the streets / to chicken to even try it."  Strummer was always so honest in his lyrics-- while he wants to be a revolutionary, he acknowledges that he's just a rock guitarist.  That integrity, I think, is what made people love him so unconditionally.

Paul Simonon becomes role model for Jeff Symonds, 1979

If you don't own London Calling, then you have some shopping to do, my friends.  And if you do, go put it on!  You know you want to!

Finally, unlike their peers, The Jam were not from London, but Woking, a suburb.  Paul Weller was not a poor, unsupported kid.  HIs dad bought him a guitar, some cool suits to wear, and was his son's manager and greatest champion until his death in 2009.  Perhaps as a result, Weller did not hate the music that had come before him; he idolized The Who and other power pop 60s bands, and the band did hopped-up soul covers in their sets.  "In The City" shows the difference between Weller's view and the nihilism, anger, and desire for confrontation of his peers' music.  Weller, only 18 when the song came out, is celebrating youth culture in a different way:

In the city there's a thousand things I want to say to you
But whenever I approach you, you make me look a fool
I wanna say, I wanna tell you
About the young ideas
But you turn them into fears

In the city there's a thousand faces all shining bright
And those golden faces are under 25
They wanna say, they gonna tell ya
About the young idea
You better listen now you've said your bit

And I know what you're thinking
You still think I am crap
But you'd better listen man
Because the kids know where it's at

In the city there's a thousand men in uniforms
And I hope they never have the right to kill a man
We wanna say, we gonna tell ya
About the young idea
And if it don't work, at least we said we've tried

In the city, in the city
In the city there's a thousand things I want to say to you 

This song is an update of the hippie anthems of the late 60s.  "Come on, everyone!  We can change the world with youth power!!"  In fact, on their next single, Weller yells "YOUTH EXPLOSION!" before his guitar solo.  It's charmingly naive.  It's also the best-performed track of these first five songs.  The band is terrific, and would only get better over the course of its career.  Bassist Bruce Foxton is a true unsung hero.

The Jam-- mods for moderns.

The Jam also never hit it big in America (in England they were unquestionably the biggest band in the country from 1980-1982).  Like The Kinks, The Jam's viewpoint was unfalteringly English (The Clash, in contrast, became fascinated with America) and as a result, they never had the crossover breakthrough.  Weller also suddenly broke up the band at its zenith in 1982 right before the American tour that might have made the difference, and did not speak to his bandmates for 27 years, so that cut into sales just a bit.

So there you go.  Six months of music history in fifteen minutes.  Hope that was as fun for you.  Angry punkers who want to argue for Sham 69 or The Adverts' inclusion, comment away.  I'm off to a barbecue-- maybe I'll ask them to put on Fleetwood Mac's Rumours to balance me out.

Maybe not.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91rAHIb8BwY   (New Rose, Released 10/76)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQkActP-isE  (Anarchy, 11/76)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iE-UbbTjcGY&feature=related  (Neat Neat Neat, 2/77)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzXkbV4lEKU  (White Riot,  3/77)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcK5Go8CzRc  (In The City, 4/77)

* Full disclosure:  my personal Top Five for 1977:  The Clash-- The Clash; Elvis Costello-- My Aim Is True; Cheap Trick-- In Color; Television-- Marquee Moon; Talking Heads-- '77