Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Hoboken To Athens (Vol. 1 of 3)

I recently featured the soundtrack to 'Athens, Ga. - Inside/Out.' It produced feedback from a regular reader that goes by the moniker kevinpat. Now, his feedback ranges from funny to thoughtful and lively to intellectual, but his comment that day was downright curious. He wrote of a mammoth mix he had compiled featuring two legendary music scenes from an era we love. After listening to 'Hoboken to Athens,' I knew this was a collection you would want to know more about. So, without further adieu, please welcome kevinpat for a few words on the first volume. We'll take a look at the other two discs in future postings. Take it away, kevinpat.

Who can pinpoint where one thing begins and then ends? Especially in music. Brian asked me graciously if I would like to share my albeit limited knowledge of the 1980s music scene that burgeoned in Athens, Georgia and Hoboken, New Jersey, which is just a stone's throw and subway ride from NYC. Of course I jumped at the chance to pontificate about this 40-year-old music that still gets me every time. A bit different from the music shared here, but maybe not so much. What makes this "sound" so distinctive I believe is the jangly guitars, playfulness and the somewhat indecipherable lyrics at times. Early R.E.M. records might be a perfect example. However that represents just a small microcosm of this period. One might argue successfully that 'Talking Heads '77' is the linchpin with its herky-jerky vocals, lyrics and rhythms. But I'll bet Talking Heads would point to Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers as their inspiration. Others would declare Alex Chilton's Big Star as the musical center. See? It's all a musical blend.
A few years back I compiled from singles, EPs, albums, one cassette tape and eventually CDs a three-volume 'Hoboken To Athens' set. I made two copies for friends, and through word and mouth a few of their friends. I am told it is still a great listen. And as all record collectors we like to share. Our good friend Brian is the perfect example of that. Now if I could figure out how to condense and zip file these things I gladly would post. There must be some conspiracy because it never works. However, as mentioned before, I am very willing to send hard copies to anyone who might like to explore.
Because I save everything I can find nothing, and it took me awhile to locate the little ad for R.E.M.'s first single "Radio Free Europe" that kind of started this thing for me. For $2.25 I took my chance on something that for some reason intrigued me. I wasn't disappointed. It sounded like nothing I heard before. Of course I wanted more. I started buying more "interesting" singles through the mail when I realized the locale connections. And of course the sound. As I further discovered R.E.M. was hardly the beginning. The dBs had two great albums out after they were involved in some local incarnations, the Sneakers and the H-Bombs. One of its founders was Chris Stamey who started out in New York and than transplanted in North Carolina to play with Alex Chilton of Big Star. In the meantime Mitch Easter, his other compadre, turned his garage into a make-shift studio in Winston-Salem close to where there was a burgeoning music scene in Athens, Georgia. Up north a small club in Hoboken called Maxwell's was also building a reputation. Many of the Athens bands would play at Maxwell's when they couldn't get gigs in Manhattan.
Like all music enthusiasts, I couldn't get enough. Years later I decided to put together all these singles, EPs, and album tracks together. It was a labor of love. I shared it with my buddy who plays it in the record store where he works and it gets interest there too. It's still one of my go-to collections for long car trips, because we all know how much better music sounds in a moving car. In fact I've been known to sing Pylon songs out loud, off key out the car window through town. It's all just fun.

'Hoboken To Athens' (Vol. One):
1. "Fa-Ce-La" - The Feelies (from 'Crazy Rhythms')
2. "I Will Understand" - The Sneakers (from 'Racket')
3. "Prying Eyes" - Mitch Easter (from 'Shake to Date' comp.)
4. "American Beat" - The Fleshtones (Red Star 45)
5. "Critical List" - The Fleshtones (Red Star 45)
6. "(I Thought) You Wanted To Know" - The dBs (Car 45)
7. "Cycles Per Second" - The dBs (from 'Stands for Decibels')
8. "52 Girls" - The B52s (single version)
9. "Cool" - Pylon ('Armegedden' 10")
10. "Radio Free Europe" - R.E.M. (Hib-Tone 45)
11. "Telephoto Lens - The Bongos (from 'Drums Along the Hudson')
12. "You're So Cool" - The Cyclones (Little Ricky 45)
13. "Got Me A Girl" - The Smithereens ('Dirt' compilation)
14. "Someday, Someway" Marshall Crenshaw (from 'Marshall Crenshaw')
15. "My Boyfriend" - The Cucumbers ('Fake Doom' EP)
16. "Dancing With My 80 Wives" - The Individuals (from 'The Individuals')
17. "Bring Me A Million Dollars" - Love Tractor (from 'Love Tractor')
18. "M-Train" - Pylon (dB 34)
19. "Tell Me" - Art in the Dark (from 'Four Song' EP)
20. "Southern" - Buzz of Delight (from 'Buzz of Delight' EP)
21. "Such and Such" - Oh OK (from 'Furthermorewhat' EP)
22. "Back To Zero" - Tommy Keene (from 'Places That Are Gone' EP)
23. "Amplifier" - The dBs (from 'Repercussion')
24. "No Guilt" - The Waitresses (from 'Wasn't Tomorrow Wonderful?')
25. "How To Keep Your Husband Happy" - The Cosmopolitans (from 'Shake to Date' comp.)
26. "Rock Lobster" - The B52s (single version)

Many of these tracks you may be very familiar with, but they are especially endearing in this context. I got so psyched revisiting this set I dug deep and began working on an addendum. I found some great stuff, which of course I’ll be happy to share if there is interest. The three-volume set is available upon request... because everything is cool.

If you're interested (and why wouldn't you be?), feel free to send your contact information to I'll be happy to forward your address to kevinpat.

Friday, February 19, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter B, Part 5)

Brendan Benson's name seems to pop up on these pages with regularity. So, I'll dispense with the introductions and get right to today's selection, 'Upstairs at United.' As the back cover says, "This LP was recorded live, direct to analog tape, upstairs in the historic United Record Pressing plant in Nashville, Tennessee. Each song was recorded in one take -- sometimes the first take, sometimes the second, but always one take. No edits, no overdubs, no digital, all analog." Benson's selections show us what we could have already guessed. He has impeccable taste in music. Here is the four-song tracklist of well-known covers:

"Candidate" - David Bowie
"Strangers" - The Kinks
"Beyond Belief" - Elvis Costello
"Love Story" - Randy Newman

Great songs one and all, but we are going to listen to "Strangers" today because I think it's the best performance. Raw, unpolished and delivered with passion. As you know, the original was written by Dave Davies and appeared on the 1970 album 'Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One.' I got 'Upstairs at United' on Black Friday in 2011, the day it was released. I was still willing to fight the crowds of Record Store Day back then.

I state the following every time I post something from Benson, and I'm not going to make an exception in this case because, well, it's still the truth. If you're a fan of power pop, Benson's first three albums -- 'One Mississippi,' 'Lapalco' and 'The Alternative to Love' -- are absolute musts for your collection. No, Benson will never be a household name like Bowie or Newman, but I'm certain musicians will be covering his songs 40 years from now just as he has done here. Since this project Benson has recorded all of his singles and albums in Nashville and in analog on his own Readymade Records label. They are worth checking out as well.


Tune in for New Lush Song Today!

Wake up! Steve Lamacq will be playing "Out Of Control," a new song from Lush's impending 'Blind Spot' EP, on BBC 6Music sometime after 16:00 GMT today. That's 8AM here in Seattle. It's rather late here now. So, you'll have to do your own math. Just don't miss it, OK? It's Miki for the first time since 1996, for Christ's sake!

The four-track 10" is set for a April 15 release. I'll be seeing them four days later. Um, kind of excited. Here's a quick look at the U.S. dates:

14th April - The Roxy Theatre, LA
16th April - Coachella Festival, Indio
17th April - The Warfield, San Francisco
19th April - Crystal Ballroom, Portland
20th April - The Showbox, Seattle
21st April - Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver
23rd April - Coachella Festival, Indio
14th Sept - Terminal 5, NYC
15th Sept - Royale, Boston
18th Sept - Vic Theatre, Chicago
21st Sept - 9:30 Club, DC
22nd Sept - Union Transfer, Philadelphia

Let me know if you get a chance to check out the new song. Would love to hear what you think. Here's a favorite from the days of CD long boxes and gazing at our shoes.

As an aside, when I was grabbing the link to BBC 6Music just now, the channel played "Cloudbusting" and "C30 C60 C90 Go" back to back. That just doesn't happen anywhere on this side of the pond.

Update: Lamacq began his show by announcing the song would be after 5:00. That's 17:00 GMT or 9:00 here in Seattle.

Update 2: If you missed the radio debut a few minutes ago, don't fret. Lush has just released a video for the song.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter B, Part 4)

"A girl in a hat is just so... vogue." -- Farmer Ted, 'Sixteen Candles'

I'm moving down the shelf a bit. I featured the Bardots and the Beautiful South recently, and the Beach Boys have gotten me into some trouble in the past. So, today we land on a seven piece that rose from the ashes of 2 Tone legends the Bodysnatchers. Well, as legendary as a band can be with nary an album and only a couple of singles to call their own. It's funny what strikes a chord with readers. I featured the Bodysnatchers six years ago, and it remains among the top 10 most viewed posts here at Linear Tracking Lives.

Anyway, the Belle Stars will probably be most remembered for their cover of "Iko Iko," a 1982 single that became a U.S. smash when it was rereleased in 1989 as part of the 'Rain Man' soundtrack. In the UK, however, today's song was their big hit. "Sign of the Times" peaked at No. 3. While it didn't have that kind of success here in America, the video received quite a bit of airplay on MTV, and that's how I discovered it. As I recall, all of the girls were wearing tuxedos in that one. To be honest, I never really got into the band beyond this one song, and the two records above illustrate the full extent of my fandom. As you can tell from these last two posts in this series, I was definitely attracted to a particular sound around 1983.

"Sign of the Times"
"Sign of the Times" (Remixed Extended 12" Version)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I Could Be in Heaven With Imagined 'C87'

As a followup to Cherry Red's excellent reissued and expanded 'C86' box set, the label has posed a great question: What songs would have made NME's long list had there been a 'C87' compilation? NME may not have released such a thing, but Cherry Red will. They have farmed the UK's fertile indie field from mid-1986 through 1987 to produce a three-CD set tentatively scheduled for a late May or early June release. Not quite all of the clearances are in place, but this is the expected tracklist of 'C87.' The second disc, in particular, should have you giddy.

1. THE SEA URCHINS Pristine Christine
2. THE HOUSE OF LOVE Real Animal
3. THIS POISON! Poised Over The Pause Button
7. THE CLOUDS Get Out Of My Dream
8. CUD Mind The Gap (Demo)
9. THE SHAMEN Young Till Yesterday
10. THE DARLING BUDS Spin (Flexidisc Version)
13. THE GREAT LEAP FORWARD Grandfather's Cluck
14. THE INSPIRAL CARPETS Now You're Gone (Demo)
15. THE BACHELOR PAD Albert Hofmann
16. THE NIVENS Room Without A View
17. THE MOTORCYCLE BOY Big Rock Candy Mountain
18. BLOW-UP Good For Me
19. THE FLATMATES I Could Be In Heaven
21. ROTE KAPELLE These Animals Are Dangeroos
22. BOB What A Performance
23. THE SUBMARINES Grey Skies Blue
25. THE WALTONES Downhill
26. I, LUDICROUS My Baby's Got Jet Lag
1. ONE THOUSAND VIOLINS Please Don't Sandblast My House
2. THE WEDDING PRESENT My Favourite Dress
3. LAUGH Paul McCartney
5. THE PRIMITIVES We Found A Way To The Sun
6. THE WOLFHOUNDS The Anti-Midas Touch
7. BIFF BANG POW! In A Mourning Town
9. TALULAH GOSH Talulah Gosh
10. MIGHTY MIGHTY Built Like A Car
11. POP WILL EAT ITSELF Sweet Sweet Pie
12. McCARTHY Frans Hals
14. MIAOW When It All Comes Down
15. RAZORCUTS Sorry To Embarrass You
16. DAVID WESTLAKE The Word Around Town
17. GOL GAPPAS Saint Lucy
18. BMX BANDITS The Day Before Tomorrow
19. A HOUSE Kick Me Again Jesus
20. THE GROOVE FARM Surfin’ Into Your Heart
21. BRILLIANT CORNERS Please Please Please
22. BABY LEMONADE Secret Goldfish
24. EAST VILLAGE Her Father's Son
25. ROSEMARY'S CHILDREN Southern Fields
1. DOG FACED HERMANS Catbrain Walk
2. STUMP Tupperware Stripper
3. GAYE BYKERS ON ACID Everythang's Groovy
4. BOG-SHED Tried And Tested Public Speaker
5. A WITNESS Red Snake
10. 14 ICED BEARS Like A Dolphin
12. THE DESERT WOLVES Love Scattered Lives
13. THE SIDDELEYS What Went Wrong This Time?
16. THE CARETAKER RACE Man Overboard (Demo)
17. CORN DOLLIES Forever Steven
18. THE DENTISTS Just Like Oliver Reed
19. PHIL WILSON 10 Miles
20. YEAH JAZZ Sharon
23. RODNEY ALLEN Happysad
24. EMILY The Old Stone Bridge

To whet your appetite, here is my personal favorite of the lot. In keeping with my pledge to go all vinyl in 2016, here is "I Could Be in Heaven," transferred from the 7" above moments ago. This is one of my most treasured records. I melt every time I hear that little scream at the end. Flatmates forever! I would love to hear if you think anyone was overlooked on this 75-song collection.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter B, Part 3)

I could almost take the copy from that Bananarama post the other day and paste it right here. I was really into the SoCal version of the Paisley Underground scene for a few minutes in the mid '80s, and I started buying up everything I could by bands like Rain Parade, Green on Red and the Three O'Clock. It's a little tougher to remember just how great the Bangles were in their infancy, many moons before they were trying (and succeeding) to get the world to saunter like a person from a certain North African country. Even now, I can't seem to be able to type that song title. Susanna's eyes weren't enough to keep me in the fold at that point, but let's remember the good times, long before major-label meddling and slick production created a hit-making monster.

Like the aforementioned Bananrama, I only own one proper album from the Bangles and, again, it's the debut. There are a few fine moments on 'All Over the Place,' especially the cover of "Going Down to Liverpool," but I think the band's best recording came before that. In 1982, there was a fabulous five-song self-titled EP. Back then they were simply known as Bangles without the article in front of it. Miles Copeland put it out on his Faulty Products label, and it was the perfect middle ground between a lo-fi DIY sound and the less rewarding commercial schlock they would adopt a few years later. If you have this one on I.R.S. and are wondering why, it was reissued by Copeland on his big label in 1983 after Faulty Products failed. Happy to say I have a copy on Faulty. Here are the first two songs from 'Bangles.' "The Real World," penned by Susanna and Vicki and sung by Susanna, is the standout, but I have a soft spot for "I'm in Line" as well. That's Vicki's younger sister, 21-year-old drummer Debbi, taking a turn at lead vocals. She sang "Going Down to Liverpool," too.

"The Real World"
"I'm in Line"

There was one other recording before the EP. In 1981, Susanna, Debbi and Vicki went by the Bangs and self-released a 7" on Downkiddie Records. They would end up resurrecting the Down Kiddie name (two words this time) when they released the albums 'Doll Revolution' and 'Sweetheart of the Sun' in 2002 and 2011, respectively. As you would expect, both sides of the single were simple and a bit rough, but listening to them now you can't help but think there was just the tiniest hint of something special going on, especially with those harmonies. Vicki wrote the A-side. The B-side was co-written by David Roback, Susanna and Vicki. If you're into Paisley Underground, you may recognize Roback's name from Rain Parade. If you're lucky enough to have this single on your shelf, then you probably already know it fetches around $100 these days.

"Getting Out of Hand"
"Call on Me"

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

From Russia With Love

In recent days, there has been quite a bit of Russian love in our community, such as Drew writing about Pinkshinyultrablast and the Swede covering Gnoomes. Seems like a good time to get in on the веселье. I first heard Palms on Fire last year when they received a coveted invite to NYC Popfest. Unfortunately, the Izhevsk band had visa issues and didn't make the festival. In the meantime, however, I heard the 'Cars' EP, via Dufflecoat Records, and really took to their airy pop. All smiles from those four songs, and I made a mental note to keep an eye on the trio.

I'm glad I did because Palms on Fire just released their first album. Shelflife Records presents 'Where Are The Grey Clouds Going?' The band has made quite a leap since that 2014 EP. Lots more jangle, too. Where you may have been reminded of Pipas before, now they sound a lot like "it" band Alvvays. Certainly nothing wrong with that. You'll notice "Cars" is on the tracklist. It's a rerecording. So, if you own that EP, you're going to want this one too. Shelflife has generously offered the single "Sword & Shield"/"Perfumed Boy" as a free download. Take the five seconds and click. You won't be disappointed.

If I may digress a moment, when I was doing a little research on this one I learned that Dufflecoat Records is folding up the tent. During their brief time, those folks proved they had quite an ear for the indie pop that's right in my wheelhouse. Sad news, indeed. We hardly knew ye. The fire sale continues here. Visit while you can.

Monday, February 8, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter B, Part 2)

Lots of ladies will grace these pages while in the B section. So, we move from Kate and Cindy to Keren, Siobhan and Sarah. As far as my tastes go, Bananarama only stuck around for a cup of coffee. I'm going to keep this as brief as my fandom because Alex at We Will Have Salad has been covering much of the relationship between Bananarama and Fun Boy Three, and it probably won't surprise you to note this is the same era I enjoy. I only own one studio album, and it's the first. I still like it enough that I bought it again last year when 'Deep Sea Skiving' was reissued. A tip of the cap to Edsel for assembling one hell of a deluxe edition that includes 24 bonus tracks and a DVD, all housed in a handsome hardcover book. I really bought it for the 12" of "Give Us Back Our Cheap Fares" and the original 1981 Demon 7" of "Aie a Mwana," two pieces of vinyl that have eluded me for decades.

This series is all about the vinyl, however, and I do have a few 12" singles up my sleeve. The first is the only piece of plastic I have beyond 'Deep Sea Skiving,' and just barely at that. The first single from their second album, "Cruel Summer," was a top-10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic, helped here in America by being used in the film 'The Karate Kid' (although omitted from the soundtrack). As a 14 year old, I loved this pop, commercial or not, and the song takes me back to the summer of '84 the moment it comes on, but that proved to be it for me and the gals. These two takes of the Swahili-sung cover "Aie a Mwana" are from the B-side of the "Really Sayin' Something" 12". It's worth noting this is the U.S. release, and the mixes are different from the UK ones. All versions of that one are available on the deluxe edition of 'Deep Sea Skiving.'

"Cruel Summer" (12" Version)
"Summer Dub"
"Aie a Mwana" (U.S. Extended Version)
"Aie a Mwana" (U.S. Dub)

Friday, February 5, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter B, Part 1)

Almost all of my B-52's collection is on vinyl. So, I'll be up late tonight converting to digital, but I think this will be nothing but a joyous job. I was just digging around deciding what to feature today, and I realize you probably have all of those excellent early records. I know the band lost some of you around 'Whammy!', but I stuck with them through 'Cosmic Thing.' I'm going to make the assumption that many of you might not have the 1986 album 'Bouncing Off the Satellites,' their least successful album in a career crammed with hits. I think today's single could have and should have been a hit. OK, "Girl From Ipanema Goes To Greenland" did make it to No. 10 on the U.S. dance chart, but that was the only ranking it received anywhere in the world. That the album wasn't on par with the band's best work only tells part of the tale.

Guitarist Ricky Wilson died of AIDS after the recording of 'Bouncing Off The Satellites' but before it was released. The band was devastated and wasn't up to the promotion needed to make the album a success. The label, without any appearances to tout, did nothing to push the release. In hindsight, I suppose it's easy to make judgments on bureaucratic decision-makers who probably didn't want to further publicize the circumstances of Ricky's death, but that's 1986 for you.

The extended version of "Girl From Ipanema Goes To Greenland" was remixed by the prolific Shep Pettibone. He was at the top of his game, releasing mixes by the likes of Madonna, Janet Jackson, New Order, Pet Shop Boys and many others during this period. The 12" mix was done by the Latin Rascals. This duo was also a hot commodity, having worked with Duran Duran, Madonna and Pet Shop Boys that year too. Quite a coup to land this talent. Between these two versions, however, I'll take Pettibone's every day of the week. To steal our pal Drew's line, it's Friday, let's dance!

"Girl From Ipanema Goes To Greenland" (Extended)
"Girl From Ipanema Goes To Greenland" (12" Mix)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Big Wet (Pop)Kiss to Book About Sarah

Have you ever loved a book so much you purposely read slower so it wouldn't end? I managed to stretch Michael White's 'Popkiss: The Life and Afterlife of Sarah Records' to a monthlong affair, but it took rereading in-depth chapters on Heavenly and the Orchids and constantly referring to the complete list of Sarah releases at the back of the book like a student at exam time for me to accomplish this feat.

'Popkiss' works so well because you can easily spot White as one of the rabid fans that used to write to label founders Matt Haynes and Clare Wadd in Bristol, and the passion is palpable as you come to realize he has made efforts to interview everyone in the Sarah story, from a major player that was around for years, like Harvey Williams, to minor ones that produced just a single 7", such as Matthew Evans of Tramway. White seems to know that with a small but fanatical fan base there are bound to be readers who will criticize him for not spending equal time telling the tales of a Sweetest Ache or a Gentle Despite. That's missing the point. As White said in his introduction, in keeping with the spirit of Sarah, "think of this book as a selection of short, sharp seven-inch singles, rather than a deluxe twenty-fifth anniversary ten-CD box set with bonus-material download code."

Reading about all of your favorite Sarah bands is what will draw you to the book, but it won't take long for you to realize that the label and, indeed, this book, is really about Matt and Clare and their labor of love. That's why 'Popkiss: The Life and Afterlife of Sarah Records' will even work for those who found the music too twee, too cutie, too sad, too whatever. By the time the reader gets to the chapter on "A Day for Destroying Things," all fans of indie and DIY culture will have two new heroes. Congratulations to White for exceeding this rabid fan's expectations. His book deserves the accolades and commercial success that eluded his subject.

For those of you new to the label, here is Sarah 58 by the Hit Parade. Apologies for the pops and cracks. I have played this one to death. You can find the A-side on the compilation 'Pick of the Pops.'

"In Gunnersbury Park"

Monday, February 1, 2016

Give Game Theory's Masterpiece a Go

This is a quick reminder that should brighten your manic Monday. Game Theory's 'Lolita Nation' will be reissued on Friday, and while some of you may take exception with this headline, naming 'Real Nighttime' as the one you gotta have, this 1987 double album was, is and will always be my favorite of the late Scott Miller's work. Once again, Mitch Easter was at the board, and he helped Miller and a tweaked roster push the boundaries a bit, creating a more experimental (and occasionally darker) brand of paisley pop. A couple of the 27 original tracks are bordering on the bizarre, but songs like "The Waist and the Knees" and "Chardonnay" are perfection.

If you have been following Omnivore Recordings' reissue campaign, then you know Game Theory's work has been handled with expert care. As with 'Real Nighttime,' the CD version has a second disc chock full of alternate mixes, live recordings, and radio sessions... 21 tracks in all! There are a bevy of covers too, and it's a fantastic showcase of Miller's tastes, including David Bowie, the Modern Lovers, Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, the Smiths, the Stooges, Joy Division, the Hollies and Public Image Ltd. The LP reissue is the original double album, of course, and the first pressing is on dark green translucent vinyl. It will include a download card for the entire 48 tracks from the double-CD program. 'Lolita Nation' is where I came in, and perhaps that's why I look on this album with such fondness, but I don't think it's out of turn to say you can't call yourself a fan of power pop without this one in your collection.

"Not Because You Can"