Posts Tagged ‘Phil Spector’

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

19 July 2010

When I was in high school, I had a regular column
in the sports section of the school newspaper (The
) called ‘Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down’. It was
easy to write and people liked it, so I recreate it here
for you now, as a quick guide of some of my likes
and dislikes in the world of music…

THUMBS UP: Disco (^)


THUMBS UP: The Flying Burrito Brothers

THUMBS DOWN: The Eagles (^)

THUMBS UP: The Beatles (^)



THUMBS DOWN: Joanna Newsom (^)

THUMBS UP: Iggy Pop (^)


THUMBS UP: Off The Wall

THUMBS DOWN: Thriller (^)

THUMBS UP: Jungle Brothers


THUMBS UP: Gregg Allman (^)


THUMBS UP: The Fillmore (^)


THUMBS UP: Bluegrass In The Park

THUMBS DOWN: Ticketmaster (^)

THUMBS UP: The Doors

THUMBS DOWN: Jim Morrison, poet (^)

THUMBS UP: ‘Fire On The Mountain’

THUMBS DOWN: ‘Dark Star’

THUMBS UP: Blue Note (^)


THUMBS UP: Cold Fact (^)


THUMBS UP: Keith Richards (^)


THUMBS UP: Canned Heat

THUMBS DOWN: Canned ham (^)

THUMBS UP: Lester Bangs (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Richard Meltzer

THUMBS UP: Willie Nelson in concert

THUMBS DOWN: Shuggie Otis in concert (^)



THUMBS UP: Rick Rubin

THUMBS DOWN: Phil Spector (^)

THUMBS UP: Nigel Tufnel (^)

THUMBS DOWN: David Coverdale

THUMBS UP: Joy Division (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Throbbing Gristle

THUMBS UP: Saxophone

THUMBS DOWN: Bagpipes (^)

THUMBS UP: Ice Cube, rapper (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Ice Cube, actor

THUMBS UP: Johnny Rotten

THUMBS DOWN: Sid Vicious (^)

THUMBS UP: Freedom Rock (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Jam bands

THUMBS UP: Willy Wonka (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Christopher Cross

THUMBS UP: Roky Erickson’s comeback

THUMBS DOWN: Sly Stone’s comeback (^)

THUMBS UP: The Rat Pack (^)

THUMBS DOWN: The Brat Pack

THUMBS UP: Jimi Hendrix

THUMBS DOWN: Jimmy Buffett (^)

THUMBS UP: Dave Davies (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Dave Matthews

THUMBS UP: Beastie Boys (^)



THUMBS DOWN: Weird Al (^)

THUMBS UP: Pearl Jam’s first 3 albums (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Pearl Jam’s last 3 albums



THUMBS UP: New wave Bono

THUMBS DOWN: Statesman Bono (^)

Masterpiece: Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols

27 May 2010

[Today: The towering inferno…]

“Maybe I’m just a really bad comedian, but I thought Never Mind The Bollocks… was hilarious from start to finish. Pointed, but hilarious, and therefore useful,” claims Johnny Rotten in the Classic Albums documentary on this record. The joke, as it were, was on a starched-shirt music industry looking to cash in on the nascent punk scene. The Sex Pistols were a high-profile hot potato that jumped from EMI to A&M before finally landing at Virgin. Band manager Malcolm McLaren lived by the adage “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” and his lads more than took him up on it, flaming out in a drunken scene at A&M that got them kicked off the label the same week they signed.

Of course, the band’s legend was fueled by some incendiary singles. ‘Anarchy In The UK’ and ‘God Save The Queen’ are two of the essential songs in the punk canon, and both still sound nasty and provocative. Johnny Rotten’s sneer was one of punk’s most lethal weapons – he built his character on Sir Laurence Olivier’s portrayal of King Richard III, and both men played their roles brilliantly. Rotten provoked crowds, crouched behind his mic stand like a demented Quasimodo and ready for battle. Steve Jones built a wall of layered guitars in the studio that sounds like punk Phil Spector and brooks no imitation. The rock mainstream has come around to Jones’ guitar style enough that Never Mind The Bollocks… now sounds like contemporary rock rather than vintage punk.

“Bollocks” is a British slang term for the dog’s balls (or nonsense), and this album came under fire almost immediately upon hitting the shelves on October 27th, 1977. Sued for obscenity, the band and Virgin head Richard Branson were eventually and “reluctantly” found not guilty. Beyond the dirty word on its cover, this album was a thumb in the eye of the British establishment. It bespoke of abortions and mental illness, smeared the royal family and openly called for anarchy, and generally sounded like the worst nightmare of every upstanding British subject.

But Never Mind The Bollocks… has proved to be very useful indeed, becoming one of the most influential albums in the history of rock, and providing a guiding sneer for albums well beyond punk. Its nasty swagger can be found in Guns ‘N Roses’ Appetite For Destruction, its title was clipped for Nirvana’s generationally epic Nevermind, and its bad attitude has been aped by nearly every hard rock album to hit the shelves since the early 80s. The Sex Pistols may have been quickly consumed by the flames of their own nihilism, but while they were still burning brightly, their fire was second to none…

Listen: Anarchy In The U.K.

Listen: God Save The Queen

Listen: Pretty Vacant

Masterpiece: Ramones

25 March 2010


“HEY!… HO!… LET’S GO!” From the first line of the first song on the first Ramones album, it was clear that this band was on a kamikaze mission to take rock & roll back to its leather jacketed roots. Recorded over 17 days in February of 1976, at a cost of just $4,600, Ramones features 14 songs that clock in at around 28 total minutes, with barely a breath between them (or just enough time for bassist Dee Dee Ramone to shout his famous “ONETWOTHREEFOUR!” count in). With titles like ‘Loudmouth’, ‘Chain Saw’ and ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’, these musical hand grenades combined New York swagger with low-brow pop culture, including references to horror movies, comic books, CIA operatives, Doo-Wop, drugs and male prostitution.

This album was constructed like a comic book – short, simple and graphic, each song framing a vivid panel of down ‘n dirty NYC life that sticks with you. But Ramones isn’t important so much for what it includes, but for what it leaves out. Stripped to its core, this music blasted a minimalist trail through the showy solos and pretentious wankery that pervaded rock in the mid-70s. The Ramones were so off the path of typical 70s rock that one early review graspingly described them as a cross between The Seeds and The Byrds. In truth they were probably closer to a combination of The Stooges and The Archies (with a healthy dollop of Phil Spector’s girl groups), but no musical comparisons can capture the essence of this group – they were true originals in a world of copycats.

Typical early reviews dwelled on how dumb this group was, and interviews were peppered with dat and dis to emphasize the point. The group also endlessly endured the back-handed compliment that they helped create a formula for punk rock. The Ramones were surely influential, but there’s never been another band quite like them. If their music was so simple and stupid, it should be more easily replicable. But making great music out of minimal parts isn’t easy – it’s incredibly hard, and the riffs that Johnny Ramone created out of a few chords have more than stood the test of time. Songs like ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ and ‘Judy Is A Punk’ still have the power to get under your skin and make you want to beat on the brat…

Listen: Blitzkrieg Bop

Listen: Judy Is A Punk

Listen: 53rd & 3rd

A Day At The Flea VIII

6 July 2009

The P and I spent part of our holiday weekend at the local flea market. Here’s some of what we came away with…

Freddie King | Let's Hide Away and Dance Away
Freddie King | Let’s Hide Away and Dance Away

Ray Charles | The Blues Featuring Ray Charles
Ray Charles | The Blues Featuring Ray Charles

Freddy Fender | Before The Next Teardrop Falls (Spanish Series)
Freddy Fender | Before The Next Teardrop Falls (Spanish Series)

Lenny Bruce | The Law, Language, And Lenny Bruce
Lenny Bruce | The Law, Language, And Lenny Bruce

Lenny Bruce | Fantasy Promo Album
Lenny Bruce | Fantasy Promo Album

Ella Fitzgerald & Billie Holiday | At Newport
Ella Fitzgerald & Billie Holiday | At Newport

Cootie Williams & Rex Stewart | Cootie & Rex In The Big Challenge
Cootie Williams & Rex Stewart | Cootie & Rex In The Big Challenge

Kool & The Gang | Greatest Hits!
Kool & The Gang | Greatest Hits!

Bud Shank Quartet With Bob Cooper | Jazz At Cal-Tech
Bud Shank Quartet With Bob Cooper | Jazz At Cal-Tech

Roberto Clemente | Memorial Album
Roberto Clemente | Memorial Album

Woody Guthrie | Archive Of Folk Music
Woody Guthrie | Archive Of Folk Music

Stan Kenton | Cuban Fire!
Stan Kenton | Cuban Fire!

Various Artists | Phil Spector's 20 Greatest Hits
Various Artists | Phil Spector’s 20 Greatest Hits

Robert Francis Kennedy | A Memorial
Robert Francis Kennedy | A Memorial

El Cerrito 78rpm Record Swap Meets | 1981 poster
El Cerrito 78rpm Record Swap Meets | 1981 poster

Another Day At The Flea

12 October 2007

The P and I were out at the flea market last Sunday, and while it wasn’t my most successful vinyl shopping day on record, I did find a few things that put a smile on my face. In addition to the Gabor Szabo and ZZ Top that have already been noted, here are 10 more albums I pulled from the proverbial scrap heap:

Joao Gilberto - album

Joao Gilberto * The Boss Of The Bossa Nova The album title was appropriated for a 1996 Walter Wanderly compliation, but Gilberto is the real boss. The man who more or less invented the genre gives a master class on the Bossa. Gilberto’s hushed but luscious songs are a must for any serious collection.

Bar-Kays - Light Of Life

Bar-Kays * Light Of Life This is where the Bar-Kays started tipping into disco. The sound bears more than a little resemblence to P-Funk (and the album cover depicts a spaceship touching down in a meadow) but the Kays wear it well, and this is a totally enjoyable funk/disco hybrid that deserves some spins.

JB - album

James Brown * The Payback There’s just one little problem with the copy of JB’s classic 70’s blaxploitation joint that I bought – it’s a double album set and mine came with only one record. It’s probably worth the $2 I spent regardless, but – d’oh! – it’s a good reminder that I need to check for more than scratches when I’m looking these records over.

B.B. King - album

B.B. King * Singin’ The Blues I’m not sure if this is the album that will turn around my lukewarm feelings about B.B. – but at least I’m trying.

Xavier Cugat - album

Xavier Cugat * Viva Cugat! Xavier Cugat and his latin orchestra are totally over the top, but as the P will attest, ‘over the top’ has never been a problem for me. It might mean less frequent doses of Mr. Cugat, but his frenetic orchestral stylings will always have a place in my life.

Nina Simone - album

Nina Simone * Black Gold Nina Simone is what I think of as a ‘phone book’ singer – that is, she could sing the phone book and it would still amount to enjoyable music. In that regard she’s an artist who’s hard to go wrong with, and Black Gold is no exception. Great album art too.

Phil Spector - holiday music

Various Artists * Phil Spector’s Christmas Album Once upon a time Furr played me a cassette copy of some outtakes from Phil Spector’s Christmas Album that were prank phone calls – complete with profanity – that anticipated both the Jerky Boys and Bart Simpson prank calling Mo’s. So I bought this album for two bucks, hoping against hope that some of those shenanigans would be found here, on the run-out groove or something, but no dice. But it is a pretty fine collection of Motown-style Christmas tunes.

And if I’m not mistaken, I’ve seen photos recently of Mr. Spector wearing that fake beard on top of his head…

Johnny Watson - album

Johnny “Guitar” Watson * Ain’t That A Bitch The album cover features Watson on a 70’s style leather couch with his (let’s assume) female dog, while two ladies writhe on the floor at their feet – classy! Perhaps unsurprisingly, this album has been both praised and pilloried. It’s definitely Watson’s disco album, and it’s pretty good music, but that cover just hurts. On a dumb side-note, the vinyl I purchased is flecked with gold spray-paint (once again, d’oh!), but check it out: it plays PERFECTLY! Who knew? Besides Johnny Watson’s dog, that is…

Stockhausen - album

Karlheinz Stockhausen * Momente I haven’t even listened to this one yet and my ears already hurt. Sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself – perhaps to spawn an “Albums That Will Finish Your Party II” post? We’ll see…

Sugarhill Gang - album

Sugarhill Gang * Sugarhill Gang The Sugarhill Gang have seen their street cred seriously questioned over the years, but there is little dispute that this is the first true hip-hop LP to ever see release. So even though it’s not the greatest album of all-time, I thought it was a pretty sweet bargain for a buck.