There’s a new documentary out on Suzi Quatro, the pioneering rocker who sold fifty million records worldwide but is best known in her native land for a hit duet and a part-time role on Happy Days. Sheila O’Malley reviewed the documentary for Ebert.com. You can find the review by following the link here.
Then Sheila and I got into a wide-ranging chat about women in rock (which you can find by following the link above and scrolling to the comments) and she sent me a link to something I just gotta share here. Please look, listen and smile:
If the YouTube thread sends you straight to “Stumblin’ In” like it did me…just keep listening.
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
KJV Matthew 7:5
Little Steven Van Zandt posted a question to his followers on Twitter asking them to name the first album or single they bought. One of the responses was Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd (the hilarious, self-mocking title of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first LP).
In reply someone whose Twitter handle is TrumpIsaCriminal wrote:
@littlestevenug should play Skynyrd for a lark. They were not as ahead of the curve as the Allman Brothers, but they were not racists ( though some of their fans might have been).
I immediately thought “As opposed to who else’s fans I wonder?”
It got hilarious, though, when I scrolled through the first two hundred or so responses and found not a single black person had replied, and only one person had mentioned a black record (Eddie Kendricks’ “Keep On Truckin'”). To be fair I had been led to the feed in the first place by Odie Henderson’s funny tweet about going into a record store to buy the Four Tops’ “Reach Out” and hearing Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-a-Ling” on the store speakers and buying that instead. So one black person DID reply, even if he is a professional film critic.
I mean, if Ronnie Van Zant was still alive and had a Twitter account and asked his followers to list the first records they ever bought, the response wouldn’t have been more racist than that would it?
I last kept track of Miley Cyrus here…Nothing’s changed. She’s the fakest faker in the history of fakery. The wild child act was/is no more real than the Hannah Montana girl next door or the pansexuality or the weeping on camera when Hilary lost. Which is why, on the rare occasions where she does reveal herself she’s the only modern singer who can still deliver a shock–something like what rock ‘n’ roll once delivered by the hour.
The latest is her performance of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” on Saturday Night Live, the fakest fake show in the history of fakery. It already has two million hits on YouTube, which exists to promote and preserve such things. I recommend closing your eyes. The visual part is pure distraction, the hedging of the bet right down to the social distancing between her and the guitarist. It’s the voice that’s real…and the unwillingness (or is it inability?) to use it this way more than once every few years that’s the tragedy:
…Bob Dylan’s recorded the sequel to “Desolation Row”…minus the optimism. I know plenty of people who come here will already know about it, but some won’t and I sure wouldn’t want anyone to miss it. It will probably take more years than the world has left to plumb the lyrics, but the sound is all you really need to know everything words could possibly convey and that sound doesn’t let up from first note to last. Listen now, before Greil Marcus has a chance to tell us what it all means!
Just on first listen, it was the Warren Zevon/Carl Wilson and Stevie Nicks references that got to me….maybe because I once tried to write a song that began, “Heard something yesterday on ninety-eight point two/Was it ‘Gold Dust Woman’ that came crawling through?/Well, the others heard Stevie, but I heard you/Singing like we used to.”
I gave up on finishing it when I realized FM stations don’t end in even numbers and AM stations don’t start until long after 98. I know it was a good verse, though, because I hadn’t thought of it in more than thirty years and it came back to me today in an instant…maybe because I’m getting ready to pitch the novel I finally wrote about the two girls the lyric was about (I forgot the lyric but I never could shake them, no matter how many times their names changed).
Mickey & Sylvia: Love is Strange (All the Hit Singles A’s & B’s 1950-1962)
Together and apart, Mickey Baker and Sylvia Robinson (nee Vanterpool) chased various formulas until they hit on “Love is Strange” in 1957. Then they chased more formulas (including some they invented) into the early 60’s before Baker finally gave in and moved to France.
Robinson persisted in the music industry, eventually landing a big hit with “Pillow Talk” in the 70’s and becoming a founding mother of Hip Hop when she started Sugarhill Records and released “Rapper’s Delight” and “The Message.” But that’s another story for another time.
The reason I do deep dives on one hit wonders is…you never know what you’ll find, especially in 50’s R&B.
I found plenty of fine sides among the 56 collected here, but the killer was “Two Shadows on Your Window,” which is as far from the ambiance of “Love is Strange” as you can get….and proof you should never stop looking:
NOTE: This later live version (still fine) is from later on, but all that’s available on YouTube. I’ll keep an eye out for the real thing, which has a beautiful intimacy all its own.
In speaking of the motives which actuated Mr. Astor in an enterprise so extensive, Mr. Irving, we are willing to believe, has done that high-minded gentleman no more than the simplest species of justice. “He was already,” says our author, “wealthy beyond the ordinary desires of man, but he now aspired to that honorable fame which is awarded to men of similar scope of mind, who, by their great commercial enterprises, have enriched nations, peopled wildernesses, and extended the bounds of empire. He considered his projected establishment at the mouth of the Columbia, as the emporium to an immense commerce; as a colony that would form the germ of a wide civilization; that would, in fact, carry the American population across the Rocky Mountains, and spread it along the shores of the Pacific, as it already animated the shores of the Atlantic.”
(Edgar Allan Poe, reviewing Washington Irving’s biography of John Jacob Astor, Jan. 1837–“Astoria,” The Unabridged Edgar Allan Poe, Running Press 1983 edition)
You see, it’s never really about the money. Poe, Irving and Astor understood and accepted that the crucial American enterprise was conquest. If you could make money off it, so much the better, but first, conquest.
Or, as they wold have called it, just before it became a dirty word: Empire.
So I go up to the local diner several times a week. They have good food, but mostly I go to get out of the house. I live alone and work at home so a little human contact is a good thing. They play oldies from the fifties and early sixties. I don’t get stumped often. Well, really I never get stumped.
Except for one song that has been driving me crazy.
I tried looking it up online by whatever lyrics I could make out but no luck.
It’s in constant rotation, i hear it at least once a week.
One among hundreds and I couldn’t identify it!
Last year sometime, I had made up my mind to pull up Greil Marcus’s old “Treasure Island” list from his 1979 book Stranded and see if I could find the couple of dozen records I wasn’t familiar with on YouTube.
I finally got back to the project today.
It’s been fun and I’m about halfway through….but I didn’t get a thrill I came to this one.
Funny thing: I’d heard the song. I know I had because it’s on a list I made of a Casey Kasem Top 40 special in the late 70’s that listed the forty biggest hits with girl’s names in the title. I used to write stuff down just so I would remember.
But memory is a funny thing. It comes and it goes.I didn’t make an impression forty years ago, but it’s burned in my memory now.
For however long it lasts!
(Even better, it’s pay day so I just ordered Robin’s Bear Family CD as my splurge of the month….perhaps more later.)
You just never know what you’ll find on YouTube. Here’s a lengthy interview of Peter Noone, ostensibly to talk about his recording of “There’s a Kind of Hush,” for Mark Steyn’s “Song of the Week” feature. But it covers his early days as the teenage leader of a band in an exciting time and place–you know where and when (okay, for you youngsters, mid-60s Britain).
I learned a few things I didn’t know, including that the distinctive “shhhhh” was not only not a sound effect but Noone’s idea. One of many no doubt, which, as a nonwriter, he never got credit for, even though it’s those precise touches that often make the difference between a stiff and a smash. He also does a nice Englebert Humperdinck imitation.
But my favorite moment, of course, was this, about his older sister’s record collection:
“My sister couldn’t say a word to anybody. But it was all said by Lesley Gore or people on records and I bought into that.”
BTW, this is me from 5/1/15:
I picked up the Hermits’ set in lieu of some generic greatest hits package or waiting until I could afford the complete Mickie Most sessions, which I wasn’t even sure I needed. I’m still not sure I need it, but the 66-track Bear Family treatment certainly has its deep pleasures, including a new shine on the few tracks I already considered essential (“I’m Into Something Good,” “A Must To Avoid,” “No Milk Today”) and a new level of intimacy made available by the gods of re-mastering that allowed me to hear qualities I’d missed in say, “End of the World,” and “This Door Swings Both Ways” that strengthened my abiding sense that Peter Noone was really a girl-group singer in disguise and gave me an entirely new sneaking suspicion that he might have been a first-rate one.
I think I’ve mentioned that, after many years, my local radio market once more has an oldies’ station. Today, driving home from a friend’s birthday party, I heard this in the middle of a run of great records (“What a Wonderful World,” “Mr. Big Stuff,” “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” “Dancing Queen,” Barry White, like that) and it was as shocking as the very first time I heard it, coming out of the tiny, tinny speakers attached to my old budget-level Sears Roebuck turntable. I mean, if “punk” meant what its principle acolytes would have you believe–the complete rejection and transcendence of business as usual–it would be the punkest record ever.
And it occurred to me that it might be the first time I’ve actually heard it on the radio:
This is getting a lot of attention on the Right (especially social media) for a twenty-minute segment where Lara Logan eviscerates the media she has worked for most of her life, but it’s way more than that.
Ignore, if you can, the usual stream of vulgarities that always make adults sound like twelve-year-olds trying to impress Mummy and Daddy. And bear with the first hour. It’s boilerplate about Logan’s upbringing and journalistic background (though it does give some explanation for her responses to what happened later).
And take or leave her political views.
Most of the last two hours are war stories, many never shared before, and it concludes with her lengthy, unflinching account of being the victim of modern history’s most famous gang-rape in Cairo at the high point of the “Arab Spring.”
This is probably the best interview ever given by one of the danger jockeys we call “war correspondents.” Even for those who consider yourselves far from faint of heart, be warned. She’s tougher than you. Way tougher.