Category Archives: Sounds

Have a Harry Halloween, everyone

Saw this earlier today on Twitter.

This is another of those records I’ve had forever.

“Nilsson Schmilsson,” its 1971 predecessor, was one of the first few LPs I ever bought. Thinking back, I probably bought it with Christmas money. I know it from front to back. Loved it then, love it now.

So of course when “Son of Schmilsson” came out in the summer of 1972, I bought it right away. Thinking back, I probably bought it with birthday money.

“Son of Schmilsson” fell right into a 15-year-old’s wheelhouse. I was a sophomore-to-be, and this record was sophomoric if nothing else. It’s full of irreverent and rude humor, lapsing into vaguely bad taste well before that notorious belch between songs on Side 2. Oh, yeah, I know this record from front to back, too. We had a lot of fun listening to “Son of Schmilsson” back then.

Listening to it now, though, and knowing how Harry Nilsson’s life unfolded — and of course, unraveled — it’s a little sad.

“It’s a deeply strange record, one which seems to be almost willful self-sabotage in places,” Mr. Andrew Hickey wrote this summer in a fine, must-read breakdown of “Son of Schmilsson” at his blog, Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

That pretty much nails it.

So please enjoy the most elegant cut on “Son of Schmilsson,” a song that went unappreciated by a certain 15-year-old in 1972. All those years later, its poignant message hits home.

Long ago, far away / Life was clear / Close your eyes / Remember …

“Remember (Christmas),” Nilsson, from “Son of Schmilsson,” 1972.

Bonus cover!

“Remember,” Randy Newman, from “For the Love of Harry: Everybody Sings Nilsson,” 1995.

The proceeds from this tribute record, which was released after Nilsson’s death in 1994, went to The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Nilsson became passionate about the cause after the shooting death of his friend John Lennon in 1980.

 

 

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Filed under October 2018, Sounds

All records $2, except the $1 ones

When a Gordon Lightfoot record you thought no one would ever want is the first record you sell, that’s a sign that it’s going to be a special day.

That was Saturday at the Green Bay Record Convention.

The picture above was taken just as the show opened. As it turns out, the picture was taken from the corner where I spent most of the day.

In baseball lingo, I’m the pinch hitter in our lineup. If the show sells out, I sit at the back door and work as a gofer. If the show doesn’t sell out, I’m comped a table so we’re full. On Saturday, one vendor didn’t show. After giving the missing vendor an extra hour, I opened for business at 11.

“This is really a cheap crowd,” the older guy at the next table said to me late in the day. He was new to the Green Bay show and its record diggers. His crates were a hodgepodge of genres, all seemingly priced by a guide. This gent didn’t have many bargains in his crates. It didn’t seem that he sold a lot of records.

Everything in my crates was marked down to $2, save for the stuff that was already marked down to $1. And, yes, I know full well that I should have charged more for some of my records. But that turned out to be the sweet spot. Our crowds tend to be bargain hunters. I’ve never sold so many records.

I no longer have any records by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, nor any by the Blasters, Jerry Reed, Johnny Rivers or Cameo. Know them well. Just didn’t listen to them anymore.

My collection is down to three Elvis records, and two of them are still in my sale crates, having gone unsold on Saturday. Perhaps another day.

“I Don’t Need You No More,” the J. Geils Band, from “The Morning After,” 1971.

Once upon a time, I had all 14 of the J. Geils Band’s live and studio records. Now there are seven left. Kinda wish a couple of them hadn’t sold Saturday, but it’s time for someone else to enjoy them.

Which is where we’re headed. After Saturday, there are fewer than 1,000 records in my collection for the first time in a long time.

Downsizing is the plan going forward. Been thinking for some time now about getting my collection down to a more manageable, more enjoyable number. Let’s say 100 records. But that’s another post for another day.

For the record, so to speak: When last we gathered, I polled the crowd on whether I should go see an arena show with Bad Company and Cheap Trick or a theater show with Herman’s Hermits after the record show on Saturday. Thank you for your votes. But as it turns out, I did neither. We went to see our niece play hockey instead.

 

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Filed under October 2018, Sounds

After Ringo, what’s next?

So anyway, we saw Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band in Milwaukee last month.

Ringo is surprisingly elfin and nimble for a gent of 78. That’s him in the striped pants in front of the drum kit with the star on it. He bounced from center stage up a few steps to his drum kit and then back down and back up and back down with ease. Peace and love, everyone, peace and love.

The show was exactly as billed. A greatest-hits show by Ringo and his bandmates — Colin Hay from Men At Work (only Ringo got bigger cheers), Graham Gouldman from 10cc (a polite reception for his elegant songs), Steve Lukather from Toto (with a nod to those Weezer covers) and Gregg Rolie from Santana and Journey (“Oye Como Va” is still damn near a showstopper).

Of course, everyone was there to see and hear one of the Beatles. Ringo did not disappoint. Still irreverent, still cracking wise. Your favorite uncle sang his Beatles songs. Peace and love, everyone, peace and love.

Ringo opened with “Matchbox,” “It Don’t Come Easy” and “What Goes On,” noting that the latter was the only Beatles song credited to Lennon, McCartney and Starkey. “The credits should be reversed!” Ringo insisted, smiling. After one song each by his bandmates, Ringo did “Boys” and “Don’t Pass Me By.”

Then Ringo played “Yellow Submarine,” the 10th song of the show. After singing along like everyone else, I turned to Janet, smiled and said “OK, we can go now.”

But Ringo wasn’t done. There was “You’re Sixteen” (even the Ringo faithful at the show agreed it’s inappropriate now as then, and they’d prefer “No-No Song” to that) and “Anthem” (a polite reception for that one, too). “I Wanna Be Your Man” was dropped into the middle of a long set of songs by his bandmates.

The show wrapped with “Photograph,” “Act Naturally” and a wonderful sing-along medley of “With A Little Help From My Friends” and “Give Peace A Chance.” Peace and love, everyone, peace and love.

Which leads us to the question posed above. After Ringo, what’s next?

Our local record show, the Green Bay Record Convention, is coming up on the last Saturday of October. That night, there are two shows I’d like to see, each a distinctly different genre in a distinctly different venue. What say you?

Update: Thank you for your votes. But as it turns out, I did neither of these things after the record show. We went to see our niece play hockey instead.

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Filed under October 2018, Sounds

That you, Siouxsie?

First time I heard Paul McCartney’s “Come On To Me,” maybe last week, it sure sounded familiar. Just couldn’t place it.

Heard it again this afternoon and finally put my finger on it. Sounded like a song from 30 years ago. Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Peek-a-Boo.”

Not the first to think this …

… but I did some Google and Twitter searches to check, and I might be the second.

That is all.

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Filed under October 2018, Sounds

A Flock has landed again

It was there on Facebook for a flash, then gone as quickly in the scroll of the moment. When I thought to circle back and look for it, I couldn’t remember which of my follows had mentioned it, and the FB algorithms seemed to have rendered it invisible.

So I turned to Google and entered a most unlikely trio of search terms: “Flock of Seagulls” and “I Ran” and “orchestra.”

The combination of rock and symphonic sounds has always fascinated me, ever since spending three years playing standup bass in the grade school orchestra.

(A little story about that: As a 9-year-old fourth-grader in 1966, I chose the bass because I figured I wouldn’t have to practice because there was no way I could lug it home five blocks from school. I never imagined my parents could or would rent one to keep at the house. They did.)

Of course, we never played anything remotely close to rock. But once I heard the orchestration on the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” well, it was wonderful that such a thing was possible. Among my favorites when I got a little older: Pretty much anything by Electric Light Orchestra and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, with a little “Sabre Dance” by Dave Edmunds and Love Sculpture thrown in for good measure. I even went through a Rick Wakeman phase.

Fast forward to today, when I learned A Flock of Seagulls and the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra have teamed up to record new versions of some of the Flock’s most popular songs.

“Ascension” was released in July, but that was news to me.

A Flock of Seagulls was one of my favorite groups in the early days of MTV. I gained more respect for them after seeing them live in the summer of 2006.

That summer, A Flock of Seagulls was the headline act in an ’80s nostalgia tour that played in Green Bay. The opening acts were When In Rome, Gene Loves Jezebel, Animotion and Tommy Tutone. Five acts playing a show that had to end at a specific time. Casino rules. The early acts ran long. One of the middle acts got pissy about it, complaining on stage about having to play a shortened set.

When it came time for A Flock of Seagulls, they were up against the clock, robbed of some of their stage time. Their crew set up as quickly as possible. The Flock played as many of the crowd’s favorites as they could in the time that remained. They never complained. Total pros.

Mike Score, the Flock’s lead singer, remembers that tour.

“Twelve or so years ago we did a bit of a reunion, and that didn’t work out well for me,” he told Billboard magazine in May. He dabbled with a solo career in the wake of that tour but has always fronted A Flock of Seagulls, which has had 15 different lineups if its Wiki page is accurate.

Until “Ascension,” the four original members of A Flock of Seagulls — Mike Score, Ali Score, Frank Maudsley and Paul Reynolds — hadn’t recorded together since 1984. They really weren’t together for this one, either, save for a day spent shooting a promo video in Liverpool. They reworked their songs by email, sharing audio clips and then sending them to an orchestral arranger to assemble.

“What I heard sounded great. I would call it neo-retro-classical,” Mike Score told Billboard, laughing.

I agree. It sounds wonderful.

“I Ran,” A Flock of Seagulls with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, from “Ascension,” 2018.

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Filed under September 2018, Sounds

A mea culpa for Aretha

2016 was a rough year. Before February was over, David Bowie had died, as had Paul Kantner, Maurice White, Otis Clay and Glenn Frey, among others.

So I put together a series of posts intended to show appreciation for some music greats while they were still with us: Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tina Turner. Then I followed up with a post listing four more performers to be appreciated while they were still with us.

In none of those posts was there a mention of Aretha Franklin, who also was still with us at the time, and who certainly was worthy of appreciation. Now that she’s gone, I feel bad that I didn’t properly appreciate her tremendous talent.

In the wake of Aretha’s passing, Sirius XM turned its Soul Town channel into an Aretha Franklin tribute channel. For the past 11 days, it’s been all Aretha, all the time. I’ve heard deep cuts that go well beyond any of my few Aretha records.

After 11 days of Aretha, I’m exhausted. She has worn me out.

Ike and Tina proclaimed “We nevah, evah, do nothing nice and easy.”

Well, Aretha nevah, evah, did anything nice and easy, either.

Aretha testified! Aretha brought forth that gale force of a gospel voice in song after song, in style after style, in decade after decade. Aretha was relentless.

After 11 days of Aretha, I find myself in the same place as my friend Greg, who wrote this over at Echoes in the Wind on the day after she died.

“So why do I feel I have I so little to say? Because Aretha Franklin as a subject for eulogy, memoir or memorial is too damned big. She towers over the music world in a way that few artists do. So I don’t know where to start or to end or even what to put in or leave out.” 

I’ll try. Here is my testimony.

I first heard Aretha testify in the late ’60s, perhaps while listening to WLS radio out of Chicago as we drove around southern Wisconsin with our older cousins during the summer.

Perhaps I first saw Aretha testify while watching a variety show, the kind my dad loved. I would have been 10, 11, maybe 13. Was it two nights after Christmas 1967, when Aretha sang “Respect” on “The Kraft Music Hall” with Woody Allen as the host? Was it Saturday night, Nov. 2, 1968, when Aretha appeared on “The Hollywood Palace” with Sammy Davis Jr. delivering a most memorable introduction? Was it Friday night, Oct. 9, 1970, when Aretha sang “I Say A Little Prayer” on “The Tom Jones Show” and duetted with Tom?

“Spanish Harlem” was the first Aretha song I came to know well. I was 14 when that came out in the late summer of 1971, a year I spent glued to my AM radio, listening to WOKY radio out of Milwaukee.

Then Aretha fell off my radar until I was in my 20s. I dug her in “The Blues Brothers” in 1980 — as did everyone else — and then she roared back onto the charts in 1985. I loved Eurythmics, so of course I loved Aretha’s duet with Annie Lennox on “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves.”

About that time, I bought “Aretha’s Gold,” a greatest-hits comp from 1969, the stuff I knew from radio and TV. For probably 20 years, that was the only Aretha record I had. Then I sold it and started collecting and exploring some of her great LPs on Atlantic. Those are my records at the top of this mea culpa.

And now, Aretha testifies.

“Son Of A Preacher Man” and “The Weight,” Aretha Franklin, from “This Girl’s In Love With You,” 1970. Duane Allman plays guitar on “The Weight.”

 

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Filed under August 2018, Sounds

Bob Seger’s Cameo appearance

When it was announced that Bob Seger would be playing our local arena in 2013, my friend Larry in New Jersey suggested I “buy a front row seat and spend the whole concert screaming ‘EAST SIDE STORY!!!!!'”

Which is a song Seger won’t play live. It’s one of his best songs, but it’s from early in his career, a time he seemingly refuses to acknowledge. If you’ve spent any time reading this blog, you know we love Bob Seger’s early stuff. He was huge in Detroit and we heard him on the radio in Wisconsin long before he hit it big with the Silver Bullet Band in 1976.

But because Bob Seger won’t play most of his great early stuff live, I didn’t go see that 2013 show, nor did I go see him when he returned to Green Bay last August.

Which brings us to yesterday’s intriguing news that ABKCO Records is releasing a bunch of Bob Seger’s earliest singles on LP, in glorious mono, on September 7.

“East Side Story,” the song championed by Larry, is the second cut on the forthcoming “Heavy Music: The Complete Cameo Recordings 1966-1967.” It draws from singles released by the Cameo label out of Detroit in 1966 and 1967.

It’s intriguing because we’ve been down this road before and have been disappointed.

In 2009, Seger teased us with “Early Seger, Vol. 1,” a regional release comprised mostly of deep cuts from some of his earliest LPs. Ten of the 14 cuts were from “Smokin’ O.P.’s,” “Back In ’72” and “Seven,” all released from 1972 to 1974. I have those LPs, so I didn’t need the comp.

In 2011, Seger ignored his early days when he released “Ultimate Hits: Rock And Roll Never Forgets,” which was comprised entirely of songs from 1976 or later.

Those of us who dig Seger’s early work again felt a little left out. So we put together a blog post of Bob Seger’s other greatest hits.

Larry picked “East Side Story,” of course. “Heavy Music” was a consensus pick by our panel of experts. Appropriately, “Heavy Music” also is the first cut on the new release.

Still, I wonder. I find it hard to believe that Bob Seger, always so reluctant to let his early stuff see the light of day, signed off on this. Perhaps he got a sweet deal. Perhaps he doesn’t own the rights to these releases and has no say. ABKCO re-released two of the Last Heard singles in 1973, but billed them as Bob Seger only.

Whatever. I’ll be happy to get it when it lands in our local record stores come September, even if I’ve heard all but four of the 10 cuts.

I already had two of the cuts on “Michigan Brand Nuggets,” a compilation of early Detroit garage and psych rock “fortified with 7 very rare Bob Seger songs.” It was released in 1996 and re-released in 2016. The two cuts are both sides of a Cameo single released in February 1967 and re-released as an ABKCO single in 1973.

“Persecution Smith” was the A side. From the liner notes: “The follow-up to ‘East Side Story.’ Sounds more than a little like Bob Dylan circa ‘Bringing It All Back.'”

“Chain Smokin'” was the B side. From the liner notes: “A good spoof about the torments of tobacco addiction.”

 

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Filed under July 2018, Sounds