FAKE NEWS AIN’T NOTHIN’ NEW (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #105)

One can still hear people as informed and intelligent as Little Steven Van Zandt opine that the Beatles invented the rock band, because, in addition to writing most of their own songs, they played their instruments in the studio while certain other bands (well, one particular band) only sang over tracks laid down by super-skilled session musicians. So many people have said something similar over the years I had almost taken to believing it myself. Propaganda works on you that way**

But every once in a while the internet is good for something.

Despite what many rock historians and writers have suggested over the years, the instrumental track for this enduring classic features just the Beach Boys themselves: Brian on piano, Al on bass, Carl on guitar and Dennis on drums. Like many songs from this period, the background vocals were recorded and doubled first before Brian sang the lead…

The “enduring classic” was only this…which, once you’ve heard it a thousand times, only emerges as one of the greatest (and subtlest) instrumental tracks on any rock and roll record…on top of all the other things that made you listen a thousand times to begin with:

Somewhere in that piece they suggest (or is it assert?) that “Don’t Worry Baby” was conceived as an answer record to “Be My Baby”

Now that I think of it, this sounds true spiritually, even if it’s debatable as literal fact.

And it makes both records larger….which I admit I didn’t think was humanly possible.

**Wonder if Dave Marsh still thinks (as he asserted in The Heart of Rock ‘n’ Soul) that Tommy Tedesco played the guitar on “Surfin’ U.S.A.”?

Or “Fun, Fun, Fun”?

Or “I Get Around”?

For the record….Tedesco did play on this one:

GARAGE BAND CHAOS THEORY (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #104)

OR….The Shock of the Familiar.

Whenever I hear something new in a record I’ve heard a thousand times, I always wonder what’s changed. Me? The Times? The Country? The Cosmos?

The Context?

Given the powers of digital remastering, it could even be….the Record.

This week, I’ve been alternating between the Stones and Rhino’s Nuggets’ box, the first disc of which is a replication of Lenny Kay’es Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic  Era 1965-1968 (still the best-programmed of the many efforts that followed in its wake, including the other three discs in this mind-blowing box). With the world trembling yet again on the brink of Apocalypse, what else would I be listening to?

And what else would finally reveal itself as the staring point for the post-Apocalyptic world as the one hit record that might actually justify all the snobs who said rock and roll was for cretins.

I tell you they’ll be singing a different tune when it’s all that’s left of the Natural Order it sounds like it was meant to dissolve. When you can make “You’re Gonna Miss Me” sound normal

The other thing I can’t figure, is whether the Stones spent the best part of their career running towards this Ethos…or trying to get the Hell away from it.

And whether they were right or wrong.

Here’s the 45 version…with the spoken intro and the band’s name spelled differently than on the drums they were using on American Bandstand.

Now I wonder something else: Did Dick Clark made them correct the spelling? Or did the record label make them spell like dropouts for effect to begin with?

Aw, man. Now my head’s gonna hurt all day.

THE GREATEST LIP-SYNCH EVER (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #103)

FoxGuy67’s perspicacious comments elsewhere sent me on a Jackie DeShannon YouTube journey, which yielded this….From Where the Action Is in 1966.

She had recorded it in 1963 and, if somebody had thought to add those handclaps, it might have busted out…In which case it would have been much harder to deny her the credit she still deserves for inventing folk rock. Except the precise timing, everything I said about “When You Walk in the Room” here, could have been said about “Needles and Pins.” As I’ve said elsewhere (or did I just think it? the memory hazes), the American answer to the British Invasion was out of her mouth before anybody else knew there was a question. And I don’t know if she invented air guitar, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she was the first person to play it on television….

[NOTE: There’s a nice interview here, where, among other things, Jackie explains the evolution of “Needles and Pins.” Sonny Bono and Jack Nitzsche wrote it for her….then balked at recording it. She said it was that or nothing. They recorded it. She also debunks any notion that not taking a writing credit in no way prevented her from being the driving force behind the record‘s creation.]

WHEN THE MUSIC IN MY HEAD STARTED FILLING THE AIR AROUND ME (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #101)

The Americans: Season 4, Episode 5 (“Clark’s Place”)

I always binge-watch The Americans. It’s hard enough to wait between seasons. I can’t imagine watching it one…episode…at….a…time.

The springs inside Season 4 coiledso tightly and quickly that a particular song started playing in my head from the first moments of the first episode.

When it finally started bleeding out of the soundtrack near the end of the fifth episode, it wasn’t so much a surprise as a relief to find myself, for once, in tune with the Cosmos. At last!

And it felt like the perfect moment. It probably was the perfect moment. I’m not sure any moment in the remaining eight episodes would have been quite as perfect…But then again, we’ll never know….who knows how many additional almost perfect moments would have been pushed over the edge if the producers had just gone ahead and made it the soundtrack of everything the Soviet Union, for whom the principal characters provide sex, murder and bad parenting on demand, ever dreamed of being and could never come close to achieving?

…And the real kicker was this: the line that resonated strongest–and would have in whatever moment it dropped–was “why can’t we give ourselves one more chance.”

For that you needed the eighties, when the West collapsed, not merely without a shot being fired but without anyone even noticing.

Take that Commies!

THE LAST SURF CITY (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #100)

I found this on YouTube when I was searching for the right track to use for my next Late Night Dedication (which, being topical, I’ll have to post some time later tonight before everybody forgets the now two-day old event it refers to).

It made me smile, but it also ties in with a lot of themes I’ve pursued on this blog for five years and was therefore doubly appropriate for the century mark of my sort-of blog defining category (i.e., the one I can turn to when all others fail and I feel myself fading).

Mostly it’s a reminder that, in addition to all the other things they were, the Go-Go’s were one of the very greatest surf bands. Sure, they did a B-Side called “Surfing and Spying” back in the day, and Charlotte Caffey’s surf guitar was all over their epic first album….But it was only right that some day, before their final crackup (or should I say wipe out?), they’d be on stage somewhere playing “Surf City” at a Brian Wilson Tribute….and killing it.

The Wrecking Crew had nothing on them.

THE PAST IS OH SO FAR AWAY AND THE FUTURE IS OH SO NEAR (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #99)

These days everyone’s shouting, even if they’re doing it by proxy on their Twitter feed and clutching their pearls about all the naughty looting and what not that they really don’t approve of. Soon I reckon there’ll be shooting (to go with the looting) and it won’t be so proxy. We’ll all be choosing up sides then, whether we like it or not.

Meanwhile, when I see something like this, and reflect that it happened within my living memory, I don’t know whether to be modestly encouraged or to just go ahead and slit my wrists now.

Believe me, in August, 1972, no one had any doubts about who Naomi Cohen and John Deutschendorf were going to vote for. And yet…

…whether talking or singing, they might as well be from Mars.

Or whatever plane it is to which they’ve now returned, doubtless wondering if this was the dream.

SMOKEY GETS HIS DUE….FROM HIMSELF (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #98)

A few days ago I caught the replay of last year’s Gershwin Award ceremony. This year’s honoree was Smokey Robinson. We’ll leave aside that he was the ninth recipient. I don’t want to get into the mindset that found eight people more deserving of an award devoted to recognizing of excellence in popular songwriting.

Let’s just talk about the show.

I caught it a few minutes in. For what seemed like the next seven hours or so, I listened to a bunch of contemporary artists killing it.

Literally.

One after another, they dragged out the Greatest Living Poet’s signature tunes and ritually stomped them to death right there in front of God, Smokey and everybody. By the time CeeLo Green closed down that portion of the program, he sounded like a genius just by failing to embarrass himself.

Then Smokey’s best friend, Berry Gordy, gave a nice, short speech.

When he finished I was left seriously wondering if even Smokey–who I wasn’t sure was going to sing–could redeem the hour those other fools had stolen from my life.

What was remarkable was not that he managed it–I have learned to expect miracles from him–but that he did so even before he sang a note. By the time he finished his speech, I didn’t even think he needed to sing.

Of course, that idea only lasted until he started singing. After a luminous “Being With You” he took on “Love is Here to Stay” and proved the heartfelt tribute he linked to his childhood memories of hearing Gershwin tunes growing up in a now-vanished upwardly mobile black Detroit was not confined to words.

Then the Poet–the one music man of the rock and roll era who was among the dozen or so greatest as a vocalist, songwriter, producer, arranger, band leader and live performer–showed a talent I didn’t know he had. He turned Conductor of Souls and humanized the Beltway crowd they always have for these things.

Trust me, it’s not a quality they could ever give themselves.

SPEAKING OF LOST WORLDS….(Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #97)

…which I do now and again and was just doing in my previous post about another teenage girl singing…here’s Tanya Tucker in 1974, just after her sixteenth birthday. The relevant moment starts at the 15.01 mark where she introduces her seventh single, which would become her first to fail to reach the country top ten.

After this one (buried in a label change, but still), she hit the top ten another five consecutive times (6 #1’s in all) before she turned eighteen.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I don’t miss the past. I miss the future that never was. (For those who might want to watch the whole thing, she does a great “Delta Dawn” near the beginning and a jumping live version of “The Man Who Turned My Mama On” at the very end. There’s also some solid stuff from Billy Walker. I only pinpoint the relevant moment so you won’t have to sit through Ralph Emery blathering if you don’t want to.)

“THE VOICE” IN CONTEXT (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #96)

Back when Phil Spector started hiding his soon to be wife, Ronnie Bennett of the Ronettes,  from the world (and the Beatles), John Lennon would ask him “Where’s the Voice?”

When Brian Wilson first heard “Be My Baby,” the Ronettes’ first big hit, on the radio, he pulled off the road, and has said more than once that he’s played it every day since. He’s also said it wasn’t Phil Spector’s production that made the impact.

Ronnie herself reported her first meeting with Spector in her autobiography and described his response to first hearing her sing as something along the lines of “That’s it. That’s the voice I’ve been waiting for!”

Phil also frequently described himself as the only person who could have made Ronnie. or any of his other discoveries, stars, or at very least famous.

After reading Ronnie’s memoir years back (early nineties’ I’m guessing), I built some vague ideas and questions that had been rattling around in my head for about a decade (about how long it had been since I first heard “Be My Baby”), into a conclusion.

The conclusion: Phil Spector was the only person who could have kept Ronnie Bennett from becoming a superstar, and he used a three-step process. He signed her. Then he married her. Then he–no other word for it–tortured her.

You can read the book and find out the details–including the day John Lennon visited divorce court as a friend of both parties and came face to face with who Phil Spector really was.

Knowing all that, I still never quite understood “Be My Baby” as anything more than a great record with a great vocal.

Today, though, listening to the final volume of the Bear Family’s bottomless survey of “doo-wop,” broadly redefined as the vocal music of Black and Urban Immigrant America from 1938 to 1963, prepared for “Be My Baby” to fit the concept just like so many others (especially the early Motown acts, even including the Supremes and the Temptations) who aren’t usually included in the narrative had done.

I was still prepared for it when the famous intro, courtesy of Hal Blaine, brought the usual smile.

I wasn’t prepared for the Voice.

Having heard it a thousand times didn’t prepare me for it to cut through not only Spector’s gargantuan production, but every record that preceded it, not only on this final disc, but every disc that covered the twenty-five previous years. Today, on the way back from the doctor’s office, it hit me the way it must have hit Phil Spector, John Lennon, Brian Wilson….as something new and startling in the world.

It hit me as something completely new, no matter how much its similarities to Frankie Lymon and Brenda Lee were still obvious. They never had to fight Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound and none of those who did ever made it sound so easy to blast a clean hole through it.

Today, Ronnie did.

Maybe it was the Bear Family’s famously superior mastering or having surround sound in the car or just the mood I was in (getting past my annual with the endo is always a relief).

Maybe it was just that the sprinkling of girl group records in the latter volumes of the series had made me rediscover how different the quality of female yearning was from any attitude copped by the boys of that or any era.

Whatever it was, today, like no day before, she was the Voice, maybe because the Lost World she represented seemed even more lost than all the other Lost Worlds surrounding her.

Be sure to stay tuned for the conversation which, among other things, covers their plans for the upcoming “Christmas album” which would be A Christmas Gift tor You from Philles Records (later Phil Spector), the greatest Christmas album ever made and, of course, released the day John Kennedy was assassinated…the day John Lennon had to step in and save us from.

You  know. For a while.

I really recommend reading Ronnie’s book, but for those who would like a shorthand version, you can go here for the gist.