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‘Boom Chicka Boom,’ the lost Pixies song
10:26 am



I got into record collecting because I decided when I was thirteen that I had to have every note the Pixies ever played. In the early 90s, this holy mission entailed spending a lot of time, and such money as I could get my hands on, acquiring European bootleg CDs at shops and record fairs. These used to be advertised euphemistically as “rare live imports.” Despite their widely variable sound quality, often ridiculous titles and blurry, flimsy covers, they sold for about double the price of legit albums. That’s a lot of allowance money; some musicians were not pleased. I have heard tell that, one day c. 1992, Courtney Love walked into Aron’s Records (RIP) in Hollywood and liberated every “rare live import” in the Nirvana section. It is also said that she gave everyone within earshot a piece of her mind.

It took years of hoarding this stuff before I realized what a strange hobby it was to collect recordings of Pixies shows. The Pixies were not famous for busting out new arrangements of old favorites or wild improvs in concert; it wasn’t as if I could dig through my collection and say, “Dude, you know the November ‘89 shows? Check out this 12-minute version of ‘Tame’ from Lupo’s. It’s so heavy—it’s like Santiago’s playing the seven ages of man!” No, aside from a few small variations here and there—the keyboard intro Eric Drew Feldman added to “Gouge Away,” say, or the extra part in old performances of “Subbacultcha” that became “Distance Equals Rate Times Time,” or the slowed-down ending of some versions of “Nimrod’s Son”—the live versions of Pixies songs sounded just like the records. That’s why it was such a surprise when they invited Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band to take solos during the two groups’ massed performance of “Trompe le Monde” on Letterman

The really good stuff in my teenage nerd hoard was the B-sides, radio sessions and demos. In the intervening quarter-century, just about all of those recordings have been officially released or re-released. For whatever reason, the exception is this fine rocker, “Boom Chicka Boom,” from the band’s early days in Boston. Here’s a decent recording of the Pixies playing the song on Emerson College’s radio station in January 1987:

There’s camcorder footage of a 1986 performance of “Boom Chicka Boom” here.

Because so many Pixies lyrics concern unexplained phenomena, I’ll leave you with this. Two Orange County papers reported that the Pixies played “Boom Chicka Boom” on the first night of their engagement at the El Rey in 2013. But I was there, and they didn’t play it, and it wasn’t on the band’s set list or anything. (Though a new song called “What Goes Boom” was.) Get Fortean Times on the horn.

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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The Rolling Stones, Phil Spector and Gene Pitney get drunk and record the X-rated ‘Andrew’s Blues’

Boozing it up
Boozing it up (L-R): Phil Spector, Gene Pitney, Brian Jones, Andrew Loog Oldham, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, and Mick Jagger

On February 4th, 1964, the Rolling Stones entered Regent Sound Studios in London for a session. The group had released a couple of singles at this point, and the studio was quickly becoming their go-to spot. For this recording, the band was joined by some special guests: singer/songwriter Gene Pitney, Graham Nash and Allan Clarke from the Hollies, as well as genius record producer Phil Spector. By night’s end their combined efforts resulted in a few completed tracks, including one called “Andrew’s Blues,” which is quite possibly the raunchiest song the Stones have ever committed to tape—yes, rivaling even this infamous number.

In his autobiography, Stone Alone: The Story of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Band, bassist Bill Wyman wrote about the wild session, which was produced by their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, the subject of “Andrew’s Blues”:

We’d become friendly with Phil Spector and attended a star-studded party in his honour thrown by Decca a week earlier; so he continued the friendship by dropping in our recording. Graham Nash and Allan Clarke of the Hollies also came and later Gene Pitney arrived direct from the airport, with duty-free cognac. It was his birthday, and his family custom was that everyone had to drink a whole glass. Pitney played piano while Spector and the Hollies played tambourine and maracas and banged coins on empty bottles. We recorded three songs, ‘Little by Little,’ ‘Can I Get a Witness’ and ‘Now I’ve Got a Witness,’ which we invented on the spot. The session then degenerated into silliness, but everybody had a great time cutting ‘Andrew’s Blues’ and ‘Spector and Pitney Came Too’-—both of which were very rude.

Though officially unreleased, “Andrew’s Blues” changed hands for years before the Internet and is now readily available via YouTube. The tune is a twelve-bar blues and very much resembles another number with the same structure, Tommy Tucker’s “Hi-Heel Sneakers,” which had been released just weeks earlier (the song was part of the Stones’ live sets for a time, and a studio take has been leaked).

The main vocalist on the track is Gene Pitney, who became the first artist to cover a Jagger/Richards composition when his version of “That Girl Belongs to Yesterday” was released as a 45 in January of ‘64. Pitney was introduced to the Stones by Oldham the previous November and promptly demoed the song with the band. Oldham, in addition to his duties managing the Stones, would soon become Pitney’s publicist.

The boys lovingly take the piss out of Oldham in “Andrew’s Blues,” but they also mock the hell out of Sir Edward Lewis, the founder and chairman of Decca Records—the Stones’ label—and the track as a whole can be seen as a commentary on the music business. Or just a drunken lark.

Here’s a lyrical sample:

Yes now Andrew Oldham sittin’ on a hill with Jack and Jill (Jack and Jill)
Fucked all night and sucked all night and taste that pussy till it taste just right
Oh Andrew (yes Andrew), oh Andrew (yes Andrew)
Oh suck it Andrew (go on Andrew), fuck it Andrew (go on Andrew)
Oh Andrew Oldham (yeah), a guy who really know his way around (down down down down)

In his book Phil Spector: Out Of His Head, author Richard Williams called the track “startlingly obscene,” and fifty years on it still manages to shock. This is partly to due the fact that the lead vocals are largely handled by Pitney, who had a very straight-laced public image.

As for “Spector and Pitney Came Too,” a song with that title has been bootlegged, but is essentially an instrumental version of “Andrew’s Blues” with some hot lead guitar added.

Okay, escort your mom out of the room, ‘cause here comes “Andrew’s Blues”:

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Discussion
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Elvis Costello’s TV commercial for ‘Get Happy!’
08:24 am


Elvis Costello

This is one of those “just press play” posts. This is a funny, slapdash TV commercial from 1980 in which Elvis Costello hawks his record Get Happy! in the style of a K-Tel shill. What more do you need to hear? Enjoy.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Psychoactive sci-fi surrealism: The book covers that inspired XTC’s Andy Partridge

I’d love to live in a world where the great commercial artists of the past—the visionary men and women who could easily have been heralded “fine” artists if they weren’t jobbers—were household names, while blandly inoffensive pop singers had to hold yard sales to make rent. But it ain’t so and surely never will be. Today’s case in point is that great painter of otherworldly pulp sci-fi covers, Richard M. Powers.

Trained in Chicago, Powers became a force in the publishing industry in the ‘50s and ‘60s, working for houses like Ballantine and Doubleday, and bringing an incredible stylistic versatility to his work—his work in the horror genre could be a whole separate post, and you’d not likely know just by looking that they were by the same artist who executed the works you see here. His early covers were of a type with much mid-century pulp fiction art, but as the ‘50s progressed, he began a move towards a signature style derived from surrealism. Less the sort of an-ordinary-object-is-doing-something-weird surrealism associated with Magritte or Dalí, more the timeless, placeless, deathless dreamscapes of Gorky, Matta or Tanguy, set as much in outer space as inner. By the mid to late 1960s, that style harmonized rather nicely with the psychedelic art that was spreading from music culture to, well, everything.

The best bio I’ve found for Powers is by film writer C. Jerry Kutner, on an Earthlink site that looks like it could almost date back to Powers’ 1996 death:

Powers became the virtual art director of Ballantine’s science fiction line, creating not only the cover illustrations (front, back, and occasionally wraparound), but the entire design of the books including positioning of the title and other text, selecting and coloring the typefaces, and sometimes even handpainting the lettering. Ballantine gave Powers the freedom to experiment endlessly. The more he got away with, the further he went. Reach For Tomorrow is a striking early experiment. The subject matter is a city on an alien planet. Or is it? The shapes of the city, alternately rounded and spiky, resemble blobs of clay or melted wax more than they do any realistic architectural construction. The city rests in the middle of a silent desert, closer in look and feel to the paintings of Salvador Dali and Yves Tanguy than the other SF artwork of its era. Furthermore, the format of this painting is horizontal. To view it correctly, one has to hold the book sideways!

By the late ‘50s, the world of the SF paperback had been conquered by “the Powers style.” In addition to painting more than a hundred covers for Ballantine, Powers was the artist of choice for Berkley, Dell, and numerous other SF publishers. Powers’ success encouraged other SF artists like Ed Emshwiller, Jack Gaughan, and Paul Lehr to experiment with surrealism and abstraction. Powers’ art, in turn, assimilated the styles of most of the major surrealists of this century, not only Dali and Tanguy, but Calder and De Chirico, Miro and Kandinsky, Klee and Ernst. Sometimes the homage is obvious, as on the cover of Star Wormwood, a non-fiction work in which a watercolor of a man sitting in an electric chair resembles Francis Bacon’s “Screaming Pope.”

Arthur C. Clarke, Reach for Tomorrow
J.G. Ballard, The Voices of Time
And another one, because why not.
Lester Del Rey, Robots and Changelings
Robert Wells, The Spacejacks
William Tenn (pseudonym for Philip Klass), Of All Possible Worlds
More brilliant covers, plus music after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Link Wray and his bizarre guitar on American Bandstand, 1959
11:50 am


American Bandstand
Dick Clark
Link Wray

Link Wray Slinky
This Link Wray appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand from 1959 is great for a few reasons. For one thing, it’s kind of fun observing a bunch of palm-to-mouth teenyboppers as they try to decide what to do with themselves while watching a guy with some of the gnarliest guitar tone of all time rip it up in front of them. Wray is famous for supposedly “inventing” the power chord and for punching holes in his speakers to get the raunchiest recording sound possible. Yes, Wray had scored a hit in April of 1958 with his now ultra-famous and influential tremolo soaked instrumental swamp ballad, “Rumble” released just under a year before this American Bandstand appearance, but it was banned from the airwaves in some markets for being just too damned raw and for using the slang term (obvious now) for a gang fight. I’ve got to imagine, judging by the “I’m supposed to be liking this, right?” looks on the faces of the young audience, that they were a at least a little befuddled by the performance. At the time of this appearance in early 1959, Wray had just released the single for “Rawhide” (not the version you might be thinking of) that he and the band play on the show. Wray’s “Rawhide” is also just a cool instrumental in its own right.
Link Wray Guitarlin
Link Wray looking like a bad man with his 1958 Danelectro Longhorn “Guitarlin”
More importantly however (for me anyways) is that the clip also provides a chance to take a look at the source of Wray’s tone (half anyways, I’m not sure what kind of amp he was using), the ultra-bizzaro 1958 Danelectro Longhorn “Guitarlin” that Wray plays in the clip and with which he performed and recorded during the last few years of the fifties. Boasting a very long neck with an unprecedented 31 frets and a deep double cutaway that produces the “long horns” jutting out from the guitar’s oddly shaped body, the Guitarlin is something to behold in any decade, but this was pretty far out for 1959. It was so weird, in fact, that only about 200 were ever made between 1958 and 1968 according to one source. It was called a “Guitarlin” because the long neck allowed for narrow fret spacing close to the guitar body that could supposedly get the player into the mandolin tonal range.
Guitar Oddity: The weird looking Danelectro Longhorn “Guitarlin”
Guitarlin Close-up
Lipstick pickups and small fret spacing of the long necked “Guitarlin”
The two lipstick pickups that you see in picture above are just as responsible for Link Wray’s storied late fifties tone than the shape of the guitar, though. Why lipstick pickups? Because the electronics for them were literally housed inside metal canisters originally designed to hold lipstick. The pickups became standard issue on a variety of Danelectro guitars and on Silvertones, which Danelectro also manufactured and distributed for a time for Sears Department stores as cheap axes marketed towards beginners. The pickups produce a jangly, trebly tone that has become famous among collectors and retro sound enthusiasts and so many people use Silvertones today for recording and performing that it’s not even worth making a list. 

According to some guys who know a whole lot more than I do about this kind of thing, finding one of these original “Guitarlins” would set you back a couple of grand, mainly because Link Wray used one.

For those of you who care about such things, Link Wray was nominated for but not inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. 

You can read more about Link Wray, the Guitarlin and all kinds of other guitar trivia in Deke Dickerson’s Strat in the Attic: Thrilling Stories of Guitar Archaeology.

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
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Bob Dylan’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ was recorded 50 years ago today
11:45 am


Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” one of the young folk bard’s first “electric” numbers, was recorded on January 14, 1965. The personnel at the session were Dylan on acoustic guitar, harmonica and lead vocals; Al Gorgoni, Kenny Rankin and Bruce Langhorne on guitars; Joseph Macho Jr. and William E. Lee on bass; and Bobby Gregg on drums. (I guess it would have taken that many musicians to achieve such a perfectly ramshackle sound.)

“Subterranean Homesick Blues” was put out as a single by Columbia Records on March 8, 1965 two weeks before the song would appear on the Bringing It All Back Home album. It was Bob Dylan’s first top 40 hit, although it only made it to #39.

In part “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is an homage to the Beats with Jack Kerouac’s novel The Subterraneans referenced in the title. There’s also an echo of the Woody Guthrie/Pete Seeger song “Taking It Easy” (“Mom was in the kitchen preparing to eat/Sis was in the pantry looking for some yeast”). Dylan would later say the number was influenced by Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business” and scat songs from the 1940s.

John Lennon was reportedly so in love with the song’s surrealistic wordplay that he told friends he didn’t know how he’d ever be able to write something better (high praise indeed) and Rolling Stone magazine listed “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” as the 332nd “Greatest Song of All Time” (whatever that’s worth.) An acoustic version of the song, recorded the day before the single, was later released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991.

D. A. Pennebaker’s Dont Look Back includes what is now seen as one of the earliest examples of a music video—it was intended to be a Scopitone—the famous one-take cue-cards “performance” of the song. The iconic and much-imitated sequence provides the energetic opening of the classic documentary on Dylan’s 1965 tour of England and it also served as the “coming attraction” trailer before the film was released.

Pennebaker and Neuwirth discuss the shoot.
The cue cards were Dylan’s idea and the handwriting on the cards are that of Donovan, Joan Baez, Bob Neuwirth and Dylan himself. Neuwirth and poet Allen Ginsberg—who would both later take part in Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue—are seen in the clip, which was shot behind the Savoy Hotel in London. There were two alternate versions shot at the nearby Embankment Gardens and on the hotel’s roof, where the trio was joined by Dylan, Zappa and Velvet Underground producer Tom Wilson (bits from these additional takes were seen in Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home doc).

In 1994, The Day Today claimed that Dylan’s song plagiarized a song written by WWII-era ukulele player George Formby. The BBC program aired a clip of what was claimed to be the newly discovered original, showing Formby performing to British troops in newsreel footage:

Thank you Whiz Kid of Los Angeles, CA!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Gone With the Wind’: The K-Pop musical

Just in case you had missed it, when Psy unleashed his well-nigh addictive single “Gangnam Style” onto the world in 2012 his global smash made sure you (and everyone else) knew of the potency of the K-pop (Korean pop) musical genre. It has since become the most popular video on YouTube ever by a considerable distance. Just a few weeks ago, in December, the song garnered its 2,147,483,648th hit, thereby breaking YouTube’s 32-bit counter. Meanwhile, 2NE1’s catchy “I Am the Best” is currently being used in a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 commercial.

It is an ambitious moment for K-pop—so why not take on one of Hollywood’s most iconic epics? The Seoul Arts Center last week debuted a musical stage version of Gone With the Wind, David O. Selznick’s multiple-Oscar-winning saga about the Civil War from 1939, based on the massively successful novel by Margaret Mitchell. Essaying the role of Scarlett O’Hara, immortalized by Vivien Leigh, is 23-year-old pop star Seohyun, who is “one of the undisputed queens of K-pop,” a member of the K-pop sensations Girls’ Generation as well as TTS. The part of Rhett Butler, a role originated by Clark Gable, is played by Joo Jin Mo. The show runs through February 15.

(Image taken from fan video below)
Yesterday Seohyun participated in a press event in costume, where “the idol revealed her voluptuous yet slender body.”

At first the story of the suffering South seems like an odd fit for Korea, but one of the most important facts about Korea is the border that divides the country in two, a legacy of the protracted war in which the United States also played a part in the 1950s.

An audience video supplies a taste of what the musical is like:

via Daily Dot

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Watch ‘The Brainiac,’ the awful Mexican horror movie that inspired Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart
07:48 am


Frank Zappa
Captain Beefheart
The Brainiac

One of the strangest movies ever made, The Brainiac (a/k/a El baron del terror) is also the subject of “Debra Kadabra,” the first song on Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart’s Bongo Fury.

The song’s lyrics conflate a late-night broadcast of the 1962 movie on KCOP with an event from Beefheart and Zappa’s teenage years in 1950s Lancaster, when a cosmetics accident temporarily transformed Beefheart into something like a B-movie monster. One night, while the pair were in high school, Don Van Vliet (Beefheart) doused himself in some of the Avon prodcuts his mother sold; perhaps unsurprisingly, he suffered a severe allergic reaction (“His face looked like an alligator,” Zappa recalled). To convalesce, he went to a family member’s house in East L.A., where no one from high school could mock his disfigurement.

Cover my entire body with Avon co-log-nuh
And drive me to some relative’s house in East L.A.
Turn it to Channel 13
And make me watch the rubber tongue
When it comes out
From the puffed and flabulent Mexican rubber-goods mask


Make me grow Brainiac fingers
But with more hair


At the appropriate moments in the song, a trumpet quotes the score from The Brainiac. Barry Miles’ Zappa biography has a bit of the maestro discussing the movie’s relationship to “Debra Kadabra”:

Oh God, it’s one of the worst movies ever made; not only is the monster cheap, he’s got a rubber mask that you can see over the collar of the guy’s jacket and rubber gloves that don’t quite match up with the sleeves of his sport coat. When the monster appears there’s this trumpet lick that isn’t scary. It’s not even out of tune, it’s just exactly the wrong thing to put there, it doesn’t scare you… That’s what the song is about and when you hear in the background DA-DA-DA-DA-DAHH, that’s making fun of that stupid trumpet line that’s in that movie… When he’s saying “Make me grow Brainiac fingers”, that’s what he’s referring to, because Vliet and I have both seen that movie and it’s so fucking stupid.

You’ll love it! It’s a way of life…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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That time Tom Petty tried to stop the Rodney King riots with song….
06:53 am


Tom Petty
LA riots

I am not up on what is supposedly cool or uncool these days in regards to acceptable Americana, but I have always held a deep and totally unironic love for Tom Petty. In addition to his later work, which I think does amazing stuff with folk, jangle, country and rock sounds, I’d argue he’s the only artist that really successfully integrated twang into proto-punk. As far as I’m concerned, “Anything That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll” has all the great elements of a good Dictators or New York Dolls song—but with this lovely Southern flair. Tom Petty is cool.

Like almost every artist though, I cannot defend his entire canon. “Peace in L.A.” was Petty’s 1992 comment on the events that unfolded after the Rodney King verdict, a weird miss for a relatively socially conscious guy known for lambasting record companies and playing Farm Aid. Part of it is that the song is just really bad (the dated production is even forgivable), but it’s also that this particular incident simply did not require Tom Petty’s musical commentary.

Cringe-along with the lyrics:

We need peace in L.A., what happened was wrong
We all feel betrayed, but we got to be strong
If the powers that be let evil go free
You must understand, don’t play into their hand

We need peace in L.A., peace in L.A.

Don’t need beating and shouting, don’t need burning and looting
Tonight we all pray, that our children are safe
There’s hurt and frustration, there’s a hard realization
But how can we help if we steal from ourselves?

We need peace in L.A., peace in L.A.
We need peace in L.A., peace in L.A.

Stay cool, don’t be a fool
Stay cool, don’t be a fool

The song was apparently written and recorded in one day, and then rush-released to radio stations the very next day. Its effect on the rioters has never been quantified (for some reason!). Oh Tom, I still love you, but I’m so glad you didn’t try and write a song about Ferguson! Take a listen below, if you dare—it gets really bad around the bridge… I mean spoken-word bad.

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Kurt Cobain’s suicide note printed on tacky tee shirts
12:29 pm

Stupid or Evil?

Kurt Cobain

I’m probably not alone in this opinion… but making money from a person’s death in the form of a tee shirt seems pretty low to me. Even if that person was a world famous rockstar… it’s still incredibly tacky, IMO.

But someone—based out of Thailand with the name “Nuchyk”—is doing just that by selling tee shirts on eBay with Kurt Cobain’s suicide note in its entirety printed on the front. Apparently this has been done before on Etsy with Cobain’s letter on shirts and baseball caps. Etsy quickly pulled the items from their site due to overwhelming complaints.

You can click here to read Cobain’s final letter.

Via AV Club

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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