Monthly Archives: March 2016

Still with us: Jerry Lee Lewis

Our premise, revisited: Since we last gathered here a month ago, we’ve lost even more music greats. Keith Emerson, Sir George Martin and Gayle McCormick, the lead singer of Smith, even Clare MacIntyre-Ross, the woman who inspired the Harry Chapin’s classic song “Taxi.”

Time, then — well past time, really — to appreciate four music greats who are still with us. These are my four. Yours may be different. We started with the eldest, Chuck Berry. We then paid homage to Little Richard. We continue with …

The legend: Jerry Lee Lewis.

Age: 80.

Still performing? Apparently so. There are no dates listed on his website, but his last gig was about six weeks ago in Mississippi. I’ve never seen him play live.

What we must acknowledge but won’t dwell on: The Killer has gone through a whole lot of unsavory business. A scandalous marriage to a cousin who likely was 13 when they were wed in December 1957. Six other wives. Allegations of domestic abuse. Substance abuse. Arrested outside Graceland in November 1976, drunk and waving a gun. Jeebus.

Where I came in: Hm. Not really sure about this, either. Perhaps when he covered “Chantilly Lace” in 1972, or perhaps when “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” crossed over from country radio in 1973. It wasn’t until 1989 that I bought my first Jerry Lee record, the “Milestones” greatest-hits comp released on Rhino Records to coincide with the release of “Great Balls of Fire,” the film in which Dennis Quaid played Jerry Lee.

Appreciate the greatness: I have always loved piano pounders, and Jerry Lee stands with Little Richard as perhaps the greatest of them all. Jerry Lee’s late ’50s hit singles are among the cornerstones of rock ‘n’ roll. That said, here are some other tunes I dig.

jerryleelewisgreatestliveshowlp

“Live from the Birmingham Municipal Auditorium and the WVOK Shower of Stars, the one, the only, Jerry Lee Lewis!”

They recorded this on July 18, 1964, a Saturday night. (The liner notes incorrectly say July 1.) To hear this astonishing side, Jerry Lee clearly brought the greatest live show on Earth to town that night. In a mere 15 minutes, the Killer rips through covers of tunes by Little Richard, Charlie Rich, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Ray Charles.

“Jenny, Jenny,” “Who Will The Next Fool Be,” “Memphis,” “Hound Dog” and “I Got A Woman,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “The Greatest Live Show On Earth,” 1964. This is Side 1. It runs 14:58. It’s out of print.

Speaking of live shows …

“Well, I’d like to do one for ya now. Ah, hope you enjoy this one. Um, pretty good tune that, uh, has done quite well for a, a lot of artists. But I’m think I’m gonna give it a little treatment here that, that it deserrrrves. I’m gonna throw the old, real, true, down-to-earth, go-gettin’ rock-and-roll beat into this one now. Boy, if you can’t shake it, you better set down because this is one you can really shake it bahyyyy!”

At which point, Jerry Lee and his Memphis Beats tear into …

jerryleelewisbyrequestlp

“Roll Over Beethoven,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “Jerry Lee Lewis: By Request,” 1966. It’s out of print. Recorded live at Panther Hall ballroom in Fort Worth, Texas.

You’ll find both of those live records on “The Greatest Live Shows On Earth,” a 1994 CD.

jerry lee lewis soul my way lp

My friend Larry introduced me to this one over at his mighty Funky 16 Corners blog. It’s probably the best cut on an otherwise ordinary record on which Jerry Lee seems to have lost his way.

“Shotgun Man,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “Soul My Way,” 1967. It’s out of print, but is available on this double CD with “The Return of Rock” LP from 1965.

After turning to country music with some success, Jerry Lee returned to rock with mixed success on some interesting records on the Mercury label in the early ’70s. Here are a couple more rip-roaring covers.

jerry lee lewis killer rocks on lp

“Me and Bobby McGee,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “The Killer Rocks On,” 1972. It’s out of print, but is available on this import CD released in 2004.

jerryleelewissouthernrootslp

“Hold On, I’m Coming,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “Southern Roots: Back Home To Memphis,” 1973. It’s out of print, but is available on an expanded Bear Family import released in 2013.

This is Jerry Lee at his lewdest, his most lascivious, produced by the equally notorious Huey Meaux. Just filthy.

 

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The rest of the story

When last we left you, the kid with the red bag was sharing his finds from last weekend’s Green Bay Record Convention.

One of them was this record, which I’ve had since the ’70s.

j geils bloodshot

“It’s on red vinyl!” the kid with the red bag said.

Ooooh, I thought, wish I’d found that. But then I let it go. It was more fun for the kid with the red bag to have that red vinyl.

Fast forward to today, a week later.

I walk into Rock N’ Roll Land, one of our fine indie record stores in Green Bay. I am scarcely two steps in the door before my friend Todd reaches behind the counter and pulls out a record.

“Here you go! I knew I had a copy” he said, smiling gleefully.

bloodshot my red vinyl

Not only did Todd have a copy, but it was one of the dollar records. It has a bad skip or scratch. Doesn’t matter because I already have a good copy, albeit on black vinyl.

Thanks, man. It’s a fun thing to have, a wonderful gesture and much appreciated.

Proof again that you should visit your local record store on Saturday afternoon. You might find a nice record like this.

j geils blow your face out lp

“(Ain’t Nothing But A) House Party,” J. Geils Band, from “Blow Your Face Out,” 1976, one of the greatest of all live records. Also available digitally. It’s the scorching live version of their cover of The Showstoppers’ 1967 hit, first recorded by the J. Geils Band for “Bloodshot.”

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The kid with the red bag

gb record show march 2016

They drove 75 miles just to spend two or three hours digging through all the vinyl at the Green Bay Record Convention on Saturday. A dad and his son.

The son — who seemed to be 13, maybe 14, so probably a seventh- or eighth-grader — carried a red canvas bag. By noon, it was full of his finds.

The kid with the red bag eagerly chatted with Steve, the friendly gent selling bowls made of old vinyl records in one of the far corners of the Eagles Club. They compared notes on all kinds of bands, but mostly vintage metal bands. They chatted for a long time, getting deep into specifics.

I eavesdropped. You recognize it when you’ve been down that road. That laser focus. That tremendous detail. That just might be an Asperger’s kid, I thought. Which is cool.

vinyl record bowls

Thinking that gracious vinyl bowl seller might need a break, I started chatting up the kid with the red bag.

“So, what did you find today?”

The kid starts pulling LPs from his red bag.

led zep 3

“That’s a good one.”

Then he pulled out a Krokus record. Sorry, I’m not up on my Krokus.

elo face the music

“That’s another good one.”

Then he pulled out some more — he had about a half-dozen in all — including this record.

j geils bloodshot

“Oh, that’s a good one, too.”

Then the kid dropped the bomb on me.

“It’s red vinyl,” he said.

“Oh, I gotta see that.”

The kid hands it over, and I pull out the record. Yep, rich, red vinyl.

Gotta be honest. One thought flashed through my head. You know the one. Ooooh, wish I’d found that. Never mind that I’ve had it on black vinyl since the ’70s.

Then, just as quickly, that thought passed.

Nope, it’s more fun for that kid to have that red vinyl.

I didn’t look close enough to see whether that was the original red vinyl from 1973 or last year’s reissue on red vinyl. Doesn’t really matter, and I suspect it doesn’t matter to the kid with the red bag.

As he pulled out his records, a small piece of paper floated to the floor at his feet.

“That your wish list?”

No, the kid said, they’re my notes. Indeed, as he made the rounds at the record show and chatted up dealers, he wrote down their tips on what kinds of music to check out next.

Then Dad turned up, carrying three plastic bags with a couple dozen LPs in them. Dad’s in the picture above. He’s the tall guy in the light blue cap and the adidas jacket, digging away on the left.

Dad and the kid and Steve the friendly vinyl bowl seller chatted for a while longer, again in tremendous detail. Guessing Dad might be Asperger’s, too. A lot of us in the record-digging business might be. Which, again, is cool.

Hope the kid with the red bag enjoys these J. Geils cuts as much as I did. When “Bloodshot” was released in 1973, I wasn’t much older than he is now.

“Back To Get Ya,” “Don’t Try To Hide It” and “Southside Shuffle,” J. Geils Band, all from “Bloodshot,” 1973. Also available digitally.

Be sure to check out the rest of the story!

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The visitors at church

“Oooh, how was it?” was the first thing everyone wanted to know after we saw our first Bruce Springsteen show on Thursday night in Milwaukee.

My friend Doug has preached to me about Springsteen since 1978. His email arrived late Friday morning. The subject line: “Bruce review?” His only question: “You gonna follow him around the country now — a groupie?”

“Ah, wouldn’t go that far,” I told Doug. “But gotta see one of the great performers of our time.”

Many of my friends are Springsteen fans, and I understand and appreciate their passion for The Boss. Doug saw Springsteen in St. Paul on Monday night, and were all of us younger, he’d almost certainly have been in Milwaukee with us on Thursday night. I’m delighted for my friend Rob, who again scored a great seat and got a high-five from Springsteen as he left the Bradley Center stage and waded into the crowd during the early part of the show.

But as I’ve written before, I don’t share their passion for Springsteen. I don’t have any Springsteen records, much to our son’s chagrin.

So, to everyone who asked me — a casual Springsteen fan — what I thought about my first Springsteen show, I said …

springsteen mke 030316

It was like visiting church.

You’re among friendly people who know all the songs, all the words, all the chants, all the rituals. They know the drill. You, however, know only some of the songs, only some of the words, and have only a vague sense of what to expect.

My friend Doug, ever savvy when it comes to Springsteen, felt for us, saying: “This was not a good starter concert because of ‘The River.’ Limited the greatest hit segments.”

I’d hoped to hear more covers, but so it goes. Having to do all 20 songs on “The River” LP necessarily limits the rest of the show. Were I more savvy, I’d have realized that hearing “Jungleland,” apparently added to the set list on the fly, was a big deal.

No complaints, though. Delighted to have seen what was by all accounts a typical Springsteen show, lasting more than three hours with no breaks. Enjoyed hearing “Because The Night,” long one of Janet’s favorite songs.

Well, one complaint. Who goes to a Springsteen show, then talks throughout the entire thing? The two Illinois couples behind us, that’s who. Just random shit and running commentary all night long, in flatland voices that pierced through the noise. Would you just SHUT UP? You aren’t at home watching TV, folks.

Springsteen in Milwaukee was good. Paul McCartney in Milwaukee was better.

But we’d go see Springsteen again. Next time, though, we’ll go with Doug.

The set list from Milwaukee on March 3, 2016:

“Meet Me in the City,” “The Ties That Bind,” “Sherry Darling,” “Jackson Cage,” “Two Hearts,” “Independence Day,” “Hungry Heart,” “Out in the Street,” “Crush On You,” “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch),” “I Wanna Marry You,” “The River,” “Point Blank,” “Cadillac Ranch,” “I’m a Rocker,” “Fade Away,” “Stolen Car,” “Ramrod,” “The Price You Pay,” “Drive All Night,” “Wreck on the Highway,” “Badlands,” “No Surrender,” “Lonesome Day,” “Because the Night,” “Jungleland,” “The Rising,” “Thunder Road,” “Born to Run,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight),” “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out,” “Shout.”

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