Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Clash: Westway To The World

Frustratingly short snippets and selective subject matter taint overall credibility.

The Clash may have been one of the most interesting, important and best rock bands to have ever existed. And this documentary does in fact support that theory. However, the selectiveness of the subjects discussed leaves much to be desired. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20 - and in the case of the people responsible for this documentary - it's also very revisionist.

There is absolutely no mention of the post-Mick Jones Clash that existed from 1983-1986. Four years of a bands history is an awful lot of time to simply not feel like mentioning. Sure the album this band produced - 1985's Cut The Crap - may not have been on par with say London Calling but few albums are. To completely fail to not mention it makes me wonder why the filmmakers would simply choose to re-write history as if it never existed. All this does is support the fact that documentaries edit history any way they want. The unmentioned band (Simonon/Stummer/Pete Howard/Vince White/Nick Sheppard) toured the US in 1984 and also did a busking tour of England in 1985. By not mentioning them at all does no favors for any new young fan who actually wants to know about The Clash's actual history and not just what was graciously selected and edited for them.

Then there is the issue of obtaining great rare footage only to have mere seconds of it peppered throughout the documentary! This seems to be the biggest complaint from everyone I know who has seen Westway To The World. To not add any of this footage (i.e. The Clash playing both songs on SNL/Their appearance on Friday's/Tom Snyder/US festive footage/etc) is simply a snub to the band and its fans. All this does is leave bootleggers with even more viable footage to sell (and none of this made it way to the Special Features portion of the DVD either).

Having said all that it Westway To The World is a welcome documentary. The Clash did have an MTV Rockumentary in 1991 with some great interview footage (arguably superior to the interviews here) and great footage of the band circa-1979 that could've been used here but were not. There is however, the bonus material of all the existing footage for The Clash On Broadway. Footage of which the reason why so little exists is because Topper took out an injunction so that film never be released. Since it was never finished (because of the injunction) most of it was thrown away or deteriorated since it would never see the light of day anyway. Gee thanks Topper - now we really see you in a positive light!

The Clash and director Don Letts won a Grammy for 'Best Long Form Music Video' for this feature documentary.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Cure: 4Play in Charlotte

The Cure pictured here in their 1980 prime - they don't look like this anymore.

Fine presentation of a once-great band clearly past its peak.

I've been a fan of this band for about twenty-plus years now so I was pleasantly surprised to find out about this 60 minute segment on HDNet TV of a Cure show from June of two years ago on their 4Tour. The presentation of the band was for all intents and purposes very nice. It was not 'The Cure In Orange' - their amazing feature-length filmed concert film directed by Tim Pope (which is sobbing to be released on DVD) - but few concert films are. No fast editing and all four band members gets a decent amount of screen time which was certainly nice.

I've personally found The Cure's past few releases to be slightly lacking (in inspiration perhaps) and haven't seen them live in many years. In any case, the main problem with The Cure's performance was that songs that themselves which were once nearly mid-tempo are now very slow, and one-time fast numbers are now nearly mid-tempo (to be generous). I've seen several older bands of late (Gang Of Four, The Police, The Fleshtones) and something I've learned from them is that being older in age doesn't necessarily mean slowing down the arrangements of your songs simply because you are few years older. "The Walk" and "Primary" are two such songs that have suffered as a result of this. I don't know if drummer Jason Cooper has much to do with slowing down the arrangements but they are, in turn a different band than before with little distinction in different tempos. This was not the case when the Cure's old drummer Boris Williams was in the fold. Use of keyboards are also sorely lacking - always a constant and necessary element of the band in the past. However now all keyboard parts are done on guitar.

(See previous caption above.)

Another unfortunate is Robert Smith's voice. He's always been one with a distinctive voice, although not a very big voice at that. It's now limp, whiny and fully-exposed in a live setting. This doesn't help their cause for a great live show.

And not to kick a band when they are obviously down (so to speak) but I was actually embarrassed watching two (nearly) fifty-year old men (Robert Smith and Porl Thompson) wearing eye make-up and (in Smith's case) the silly haircut. These are things that probably should have been in been eased out of the image in the mid-nineties. All one has to do is look at picture-perfect bassist Simon Gallup and wonder what Robert and Porl are (or in this case, not) thinking. In terms of what makes music such as The Cure's successful - image is simply just not important. It's just sad, embarrassing and unfortunate when the band leader doesn't realize that himself and insists on wearing the silly make-up. It would be easy for someone unfamiliar with the band to view the make-up motif as style over substance. And to think that this band was at one time supposedly "anti-image".

However if you are a fan that believes The Cure can do no wrong - obviously you'll be hearing none of this and eat this performance up.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Police Confidential by Danny Quatrochi

The Police Confidential by Danny Quatrochi
William Morrow & Co.
October 1986
128 pages

Great companion to the Lynn Goldsmith Police books (The Police and The Police: 1978-1983) at very least.

Danny Quatrochi - Sting's right-hand man (bass technician) from New Jersey and Police roadie - put forth a fantastic book. If anything it's too short considering all the Police photos he's taken. He's one of them, so you get a lot of photos with The Police's guard down.

Embarrassingly, the back cover photo of Danny (and his awesome shirt) was how I was introduced to XTC in late 87/early 88. He was sporting a dark Drums & Wires shirt which made me think - "that's a cool shirt - what does it say exactly?". So I have Danny to thank for me becoming a huge XTC fan, unbeknownst to him.

Thanks for the cool pics of Andy, Stewart and Sting Danny - and XTC rules.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Capitol Records' Teen Set Inner Sleeve 1964

All of my fellow vinyl junkies out there might be able to identify this. It was an inner sleeve found in Capitol's albums to promote their releases and their new 'Teen Set' magazine.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Beach Boys At Theatre at Westbury, Westbury, NY 7/23/10

Okay, so maybe "The Beach Boys" is something of a misnomer seeing that two of the the founding members - lead guitarist/vocalist Carl Wilson and drummer/vocalist Dennis Wilson - have both passed away. Creative leader Brian Wilson has had an active solo career since the late 80's. And rhythm guitarist and vocalist Alan Jardine was unceremoniously fired by Mike Love after Carl's passing (real classy Mike) in 1998. So basically the band in question is Mike Love and Bruce Johnston with a handful of very talented others, including John Cowsill (of The Cowsills) who sang lead on "Help Me Rhonda" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice"...and special guest John Stamos (I wish I was kidding)*.

I've been a fan of The Beach Boys since the Summer of 1998. Basically since I first saw the VH-1 documentary Endless Harmony. The Beach Boys have since become one of my all-time favorite bands. The band is now basically a Beach Boys cover band (albeit a very, very good one) fronted by members Mike Love and Bruce Johnston. I'd been hemming and hawing over the notion of seeing them for long enough (these guys aren't getting any younger) and decided to see them.

All things considered - the show was wonderful. It would have been amazing to have seen these guys circa 1965 - 1975, but as there were no time machines handy this would have suffice. Bruce's vocals on "Disney Girls" were fantastic and Mike's vocals were as good as they've always been.

The band was fantastic and the venue was intimate and the acoustics were wonderful.

Set List:

Catch A Wave
Little Honda
Do It Again
Surf City
Surfin' Safari
Surfer Girl
Getcha Back
I'm So Young
Why Do Fools Fall in Love
When I Grow Up (to Be a Man)
Be True to Your School
Ballad Of Ole Betsy
Don't Worry Baby
Little Deuce Coupe
Shut Down
I Get Around

Intermission For 25 minutes

California Dreaming
Then I Kissed Her
California Girls
Sloop John B
Wouldn't It Be Nice
Disney Girls (1957)
Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring
Forever (John Stamos On Lead Vocals)
God Only Knows
Good Vibrations
Help Me Rhonda
Rock & Roll Music
Do You Wanna Dance
Barbara Ann
Surfin' USA

Encore (although they never left the stage)

Summertime Blues
Fun Fun Fun.

* All kidding aside, Stamos was actually, and surprisingly, well-accounted for. He alternated between rhythm guitar, drums, backing vocals, timpani, bongos and took lead vocals on Dennis Wilson's "Forever". And he made the ladies swoon and squeal like it was 1964 all over again (I kid you not).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Random Best Of Year List: 1992!

The Best Of 1992:


1) XTC: Nonsuch

2) Morrissey: Your Arsenal

3) They Might Be Giants: Apollo 18

4) Big Star: Third/Sister Lovers

5) Eggstone: Eggstone In San Diego

6) The Cure: Wish

7) John Wesley Harding: Why We Fight

8) Too Much Joy: Mutiny

9) Chris Bell: I Am The Cosmos

10) Sugar: Copper Blue

11) Television: Television

12) Beastie Boys: Check Your Head

13) Prince: The Love Sign Album

14) Barenaked Ladies: Gordon

15) Singles (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

16) The Fleshtones: Powerstance

17) Social Distortion: Somewhere Between Heaven & Hell

18) Juliana Hatfield: Hey Babe

19) Ride: Going Blank Again

20) Pavement: Slanted & Enchanted


1) XTC: "The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead"

2) Redd Kross: "Trance"

3) Matthew Sweet: "I've Been Waiting"

4) Teenage Fanclub: "What You Do To Me"

5) Morrissey: "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful"

6) Ride: "Twisterella"

7) The Cure: "High"

8) Tom Cochrane: "Life Is A Highway"

9) Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians: "Oceanside"

10) Toad The Wet Sprocket: "All I Want"

11) Too Much Joy: "Donna Everywhere"

12) Suede: "Metal Mickey"

13) Right Said Fred: "Don't Talk Just Kiss"

14) John Wesley Harding: "Kill The Messenger"

15) Paul Westerberg: "Dyslexic Heart"

16) They Might Be Giants: "The Statue Got Me High"

17) Blur: "Popscene"

18) Pulp: "My Legendary Girlfriend"

19) Red Hot Chili Peppers: "Breaking The Girl"

20) The Soup Dragons: "Pleasure"

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Beach Boys: Endless Harmony DVD (1998/2000)

If one American band is deserving of a multi-DVD Anthology-like documentary it's The Beach Boys.

This is the VH1 special (now on DVD) that formally introduced me to The Beach Boys (beyond the handful of early hits that we all know). Needless to say it made quite an impression on me, just by musical content alone. Brian Wilson is a special (okay brilliant) composer and the Beach Boys are an unassumingly great band. However since viewing this documentary after becoming familiar with the bands' history it's fairly obvious that there is some revisionism at work here, namely from Mike Love.

If there is only one American band deserving of a documentary done in the same exact way as The Beatles Anthology with the same detail, length, affection and use of footage it's The Beach Boys. With the bands complete chronological history represented and full interviews from all parties associated with the band about the good, bad, ugly and embarrassing (they have quite a varied history). Not just the band according to Mike Love.

However this is not that documentary. Far from it. Whereas The Beatles Anthology itself is not too deep and rarely delves into any personal affairs. Surprisingly this documentary does a handful of times but only briefly and very selectively. However the whole Blondie Chaplin, Ricky Fataar-era is barely mentioned, the Landlocked album, The 1975 Beachago Tour, Jack Rieley, Bruce Johnston's firing/quitting, The 1976 NBC SNL-produced 'It's OK' special, The troubled 1977 Largo, MD show after which caused Mike Love to fly to Switzerland and meditate for six months, Eugene Landy, the bombastic 1978 Australia tour, the Adult Child album, the 1980s nostalgia/self-parody contemporary hit-seeking Beach Boys, the solo albums...none of these things and nor are several other substantial items mentioned.

This is basically an updated (but barely) version of 'An American Band' (snippets of footage - some rare - with overlapping interviews, repeat). The DVD special features are pretty nice as they contain a few songs undisturbed in their entirety. All-in-all this is fine for a casual, very-loose overview. Otherwise if you are familiar with the band and it's history, it'll just make you wish for a substantial, detailed history - the amazing, good, bad, ugly and embarrassing (because this band has it all) - just as The Beatles have available in their multi-disc Anthology.

Until that happens, you'll have to chew on this superficial item.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Big Star & Box Tops legend Alex Chilton dies at age 59.

Influential vocalist/guitarist/songwriter/producer Alex Chilton, the legendary leader of both the 60's hitmakers The Box Tops and influential power pop band Big Star, died yesterday at a hospital in a New Orleans. He was 59 years old.

Chilton had been complaining about his health earlier Wednesday. He was taken by paramedics from his home to the emergency room but could not be revived.

Chilton had been scheduled to play at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas with Big Star this Saturday March 20th.

Many people are familiar with Memphis native Alex Chilton and his legend, whether they know it or not.

His first band The Box Tops had ten charting hits in the US Hot 100 in the late 60's. Notably, the number one hit "The Letter" (which Chilton recorded when he was only 16 years of age), "Cry Like A Baby", "Soul Deep" and "Neon Rainbow". These songs still get regular airplay on oldies radio today.

Chilton's second band Big Star was co-led by the late Chris Bell and are critically hailed as the ultimate American power pop band. They have subsequently influenced an entire generation of musicians. The Bangles have covered "September Gurls", Elliott Smith has covered "Thirteen" (as have Garbage and Wilco), Jeff Buckley covered "Kanga Roo" and Cheap Trick have covered their "In The Street" for the theme song of That 70's Show. R.E.M., The Replacements, Teenage Fanclub, The dB's, Graham Coxon, Wilco, The Posies, Redd Kross and Gin Blossoms all regularly site the band as an influence. The Chilton-penned "I'm In Love With A Girl" recently appeared in Adventureland.

The Replacements' 1987 modern-rock hit single and tribute song "Alex Chilton" contain the lyrics:

"Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes 'round
They sing "I'm in love. What's that song? I'm in love with that song."

All three of their studio albums have been listed in Rolling Stone's '500 Greatest Albums of All Time' list. While "September Gurls" and "Thirteen" were ranked #178 and #396, respectively, on their '500 Greatest Songs of All Time' list.

His solo work - including the great "Bangkok" single, the wild and loose Singer Not The Song EP, the fascinating Like Flies On Sherbet album, the college radio favorite "No Sex" single and the High Priest, A Man Called Destruction and Black List albums - while uneven at times all possessed unlimited charms in their own idiosyncrasies and stubbornness.

While Chilton was a gifted songwriter, he became more of a performer over the past twenty-years or so. As was his want, he was often inclined to play obscure blues covers and jazzy pop from the first half of the 1900's. He had been played shows with both a reunited The Box Tops and a reformed Big Star since the mid 1990's.

Having moved from Memphis to New Orleans in the early 80's he was a survivor of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

He is survived by his wife, Laura, a son, Timothy, and a sister, Cecilia.

He will be sorely missed by a legion of fans and music lovers this world over.