…but plenty of groovy stuff in the archives.
I wanted to blog for a year, and I did, so there.
Refreshing Beverage will return in time.
Pretenders records are hit-and-miss. It seems like Chrissie Hynde does her best work when her life turns difficult; for instance, her I’m-in-love record Viva El Amor! never really gels, while the subsequent not-only-am-I-not-in-love-but-he-was-an-assmunch release Loose Screw is chock full of great, pissed off music.
I’m not sure what was going on in her life when she gathered up the tunes that comprise 1994′s Last of the Independents, but it’s a really great record that I prefer over everything but their classic debut; and yeah, there’s a bit of MOR tripe on it (it was on this record that she first consulted LA “song doctor” Billy Steinberg, whose credits include work with Heart, Celine Dion, and – gulp – Madonna,) but the strong stuff is really strong; f’rinstance, the lead-off cut “Hollywood Perfume”.
Again, if I had to choose Hynde’s greatest song, I’d have to work through at least half a dozen cuts on the first album, but then I’d land on this through-a-glass-darkly view of 1990′s LA. Lyrically, it moves like a crane shot, from the writer’s hotel room, over the unused pool, through a seedy Hollywood night and down Sunset Boulevard to the infamous Brentwood Drive, where, in the midst of an earthquake, a dog’s bark punctuates murder.
One seeringly vivid, if uncomfortable stanza stands out:
Down on the strip beneath the billboard moon
Teenaged girls look for love in the
Neon sex and doom
Of your Hollywood perfume
The implication is that the protagonist’s lover is part of what Joni Mitchell’s “starmaker machinery” that chews up and spits out these would-be ingenues and hangers-on; and in the wider view, we’re all complicit in wallowing in and/or promoting that dizzy swoon of entertainment phoniness. The singer is unhappy with the fact that she, too, is under the spell of this slimeball and the racket he represents – later, she takes his picture and throws it from the balcony into the pool…which she finds funny, because he “likes his tan” but doesn’t like to swim.
And then, musically, you get one of the all-time great basslines; there can be no debate.
The bassist’s name is Andy Hobson, a London bloke who moved on from the band shortly after the recording.
Not long ago, I came across a live version of the song. I have no information about where or when it was recorded – but I was amazed at how powerful it is, even more so than the studio version. I’m sure you agree.
I’m not sure if Hynde wrote the bassline to this song, or if Hobson came up with it, but just try sitting still when it first rumbles out of your speakers. That it’s in the service of such a great song is gravy, really.
In Frank Zappa’s autobiography, The Real Frank Zappa Book, he complains about trying to get a gig at L.A.’s Whiskey-a-Go-Go when he was just getting started, back in the mid-60s. Every time he would drive by, the marquee would have the same name on it – Johnny Rivers. Rivers was apparently booked in perpetuity at the club, one of the city’s biggest. On the rare occasions that he took the night off, another band would be invited to play – including the Mothers of Invention, occasionally – but the marquee would still read “Tonight – Johnny Rivers.”
Rivers started out demo-ing other people’s songs in Nashville, moved to LA after a chance meeting with James Burton, and then went on to steal – allegedly – Elvis Presley’s arrangement of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” after Presley let him hear an at-the-time unreleased recording. This was the end of his short friendship with Presley, but the beginning of his career as a hitmaker, as the song went top-10 nationally.
He also scored with the theme song to the TV series “Secret Agent Man,” as well as remakes of blues standards like “7th Son” and “Midnight Special” and Motown numbers “Tracks of My Tears” and “Baby I Need Your Lovin.”
His sole #1 hit, in late 1966, was “Poor Side of Town.” A twist on the old poor-boy-loses-girlfriend-to-rich-guy tale, it had a great string arrangement by Marty Paich and some nice girl-group doo-wahs as well, all in service of a great melody, and a nicely delivered catch-in-the-throat vocal by Rivers. Everything came together for this one, one of the few Rivers singles that still stands up.
Nick Lowe backs me up on this. From The Convincer, 2001:
As does guitarist Johnny A., who provided instrumental proof of the melody’s sturdiness on his Get Inside album:
Sometimes, you just want a nice 3-minute pop song. I’m sure Frank would take a pass on it, but for me, it’s just a perfect little musical nugget that will pop up on oldies radio – or my ITunes shuffle – now and then.
I’ve investigated the Wish You Were Here “Immersion Box,” a deluxe remaster of the greatest Pink Floyd album, and it does sound very good – but then that record always sounded fantastic, even on 8-track (trust me, we’re talking first-hand knowledge). The extras are very cool – a version of the title dirge with Stephane Grapelli jamming on the out, the original “musical glasses” track from their aborted Household Objects project, some live stuff, and the original version of “Have a Cigar” with the Roger Walters vocal. As for the last, after just one listen it has became my preferred version. Musically, it doesn’t sound dramatically different, though it is apparently a completely different take from the one we know and love. It turns out that Roy Harper’s vocal phrasing on the tune is straight-up Waters – just compare it with the original – but with Waters yelping away, it simply sounds more like Pink Floyd. A harmony vocal line, most likely Gilmour, adds some flavorful tension to the track.
Yes, I know the image above is from a different album, Animals, but listening to this track anew with the Rog singing, I’m struck by how much it fits that record. Instead of Harper’s cold, clinical approach, Waters trademark anger-leavened-by-disappointment gives the song a touch of human warmth.
Incidentally, either of these records would have – or could have – worked better as a film than The Wall. Leaving aside that record’s bloated score, both Wish and Animals are thematically more universal/personal than are the travails of Pink – seriously, can anyone identify with that character, much less root for him? That is, if you can find him beneath the bombast and self-pity.
But most of us have had some experience, however glancing, with mental illness, and anyone who works for a living understands all too well the writer’s three archetypical animals.
Possibly Howard Stern might have raised these issues in his interview with Roger a couple of weeks back, but of course the need for inanity precludes any meaningful dialog when it comes to that show. (Go on, click it, there are a few good bits.)
Of course, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Also, too, “Watership Down.” Featuring the Roger Waters out-take, “Bunnies.”
It’s important, when attempting to book a band, that one understand the politics of rejection. It’s not necessarily that the club-owner in question dislikes your music or you personally…it’s just that maybe he or she doesn’t feel like it right now, or prefers less interesting music, or in fact wouldn’t know good music if it bit him or her on the ass. Etc.
Let’s face it, to most bar or niteclub owners, the music they present is pretty much equal to the lights that hang from the ceiling – a necessary part of doing business, not much more.
In San Francisco, there was a club called The Blue Lamp. It’s gone now, but when I lived there, I wanted to book that room. It had a real greasy vibe; it was a blues dive, the kind that you hear about or read about but rarely get to experience.
The booker at the time was a musician named Patrick. Patrick was a dick.
I did all the usual stuff you have to do to book your band. I paid to record and produce a bunch of songs, put them on a cassette, got pictures taken and artwork made up for the insert, paid for duplication and printing and shrink-wrap. Got an 8×10 and typed up a blurb. Put it all together in a nice envelope, and dropped it off. Followed up with Patrick, who acknowledged that he had received it, and that he did his booking on Tuesdays from 5 to 7pm at the club, and I would need to stop by to set a date. Apparently, this could not be done on the phone or via the then-nascent email process.
So after work on a Tuesday, I drove into the city at rush hour, fought my way to the club, found a parking spot (a true miracle any time of day) and strode into the club around 5:30pm to Make It Happen.
Patrick: “I don’t feel like doing this right now.”
He didn’t last long as the booker there. The owner took it over, and before long I had a monthly gig at the Lamp – they loved me. Patrick would stop in occasionally to glower. Dick.
Mon 1/23, 3:47pm. Venue: local ski resort that does summer shows on a veranda beside their mountain. I tried this place last year…I think I called in February and they were booked through Thanksgiving or something.
Result: Actually got the booker on the phone. She provided me her email address so I can send her a link to my professionally-produced and stone-awesome video. She is “booked for the season” but has not booked summer yet.
Mon 1/23, 4:06pm. Venue: river-side bar & grill, somewhat upscale. Tried to book this place last year, could not get owner on the phone. After repeated calls, asked how to speak with him. Was told to stop by on specific time and date. Did so, press kit in hand, only to have hostess look down her nose at me. “Oh, he’s a very busy man. He doesn’t have time.” I returned to my car with my 30 years of experience as a musician, while she got back to her job serving cokes.
Result: “Oh, he’s not in on Mondays.” Told to call him at a different bar on Tuesday.
Mon 1/23, 4:11pm. Venue: Irish bar in 19th-century PA backwater. New to me, but my rhythm section’s hometown. They would appreciate not having to drive 40 minutes in the PA winter once in a while. I aim to keep them happy because they’re the best.
Result: “She’s not here right now.” They don’t know her email address, suggest I message her on Facebook.
Facebook messaging. I saw some guy send his condolences after a friend’s mom died, on that friend’s Facebook wall. I…don’t think that’s really the way to do it.
Gonna think about this. Ideally, I would be knocking on their doors and meeting them face-to-face; any salesman will tell you, it’s by far the best way to sell your product. Phone call is 2nd. Facebook? Hmm.
And that’s all we have time for today. Thanks for playing. We have some lovely parting gifts for you.