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Preview: Boogie Woogie Flu

Boogie Woogie Flu

Degenerate Record Collector's Disease

Updated: 2017-12-03T11:07:06.509-05:00


Seven Years in Fluville


Today would have been Elvis's birthday, but he's dead.Today is also the Boogie Woogie Flu's birthday and it's nearly dead.I am here tonight to help this long neglected enterprise limp into another year.  Our annual Hanukkah extravaganza died when the lights unexpectedly went out after the second night. It was not a miracle or a lack thereof - it just happened. Tonight, I'll attempt to resuscitate and breathe some life back into this dying corpse by offering seven nuggets of pure gold recorded by the King at Stax Studios in his hometown of Memphis. Hope you dig it.Happy Birthday Elvis, and long live the BWF.Download:"Promised Land (Take 5)" mp3by Elvis Presley, 1973.available on Elvis At Stax "Just A Little Bit" mp3by Elvis Presley, 1973.available on Walk a Mile in My Shoes: The Essential 70's Masters  "You Asked Me To (Take 3A)" mp3by Elvis Presley, 1973.available on Elvis At Stax  "Three Corn Patches (Take 14)" mp3by Elvis Presley, 1973.available on Elvis At Stax   "Find Out What's Happening (Takes 8 & 7)" mp3by Elvis Presley, 1973.available on Elvis At Stax   "If You Don't Come Back" (Take 3)"by Elvis Presley, 1973.available on Elvis At Stax   "If You Talk In Your Sleep" mp3by Elvis Presley, 1973.available on Walk a Mile in My Shoes: The Essential 70's Masters [...]

Hanukkah in Santa Monica


by Paul LukasMusical comedy usually ends up failing on both the musical and comedic fronts. Once you learn all the words, there's rarely any need to listen again -- and that's assuming there was any reason to listen in the first place.But Tom Lehrer remains the great exception. He wasn't just a humorist — he was a satirist, and a scathingly effective one. And he wasn't just a musician — he taught musical theater on the university level, where he also taught political science and, to greater acclaim, mathematics. He is almost certainly the only person with this background to become the subject of a Rhino box set. Or to put it another way, Tom Lehrer was a pretty unusual cat.Lehrer was born in Manhattan in 1928. He took piano lessons as a child and later, while in his 20s, began writing satirical songs as a hobby, some of which he ended up performing in nightclubs. His shows were enthusiastically received, so in 1954 he booked some studio time and recorded a 10" album, Songs by Tom Lehrer, featuring such titles as "Be Prepared" (which advised Boy Scouts on the best ways to smoke a joint while the Scoutmaster wasn't looking), "I Wanna Go Back to Dixie" (an ode to lynching, poll taxes, and the like) and "The Old Dope Peddler" (self-explanatory). Initially issued in a pressing of 400 copies on the artist's own Lehrer Records, it marked the beginning of Lehrer's reluctant engagement with the music biz.After releasing a follow-up record, More of Tom Lehrer, Lehrer had become enough of a cult phenomenon to secure a contract with Reprise, which issued a live LP, An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer, in 1959. But it wasn't until his 1965 album, That Was the Year That Was, that Lehrer broke through to the mainstream. The LP hit No. 18 on the Billboard album chart and eventually went gold — not bad for a guy who's main gig was as a math professor.I discovered That Was the Year That Was at age 11, when I found it in my parents' record collection. (It was one of maybe three non-classical LPs in the house.) It was filled with topical songs and one-liners, most of which I was too young to understand, but I wasn't too young to recognize intelligence, rhythm, or timing, all of which Lehrer clearly had. Even without fully comprehending all of his material, I was hooked.Turns out I chose the right record, because That Was the Year That Was contains the cream of Lehrer's recorded output. Among the highlights: "Smut" (a paean to pornography that avoids the typical clichés), "Wernher Von Braun" (a hilarious assessment of the Nazi-turned-American rocket scientist), "New Math" (a simple arithmetic problem set to music — first in base-10 and then in base-8), and "The Vatican Rag" (which I once played for a seventh grade schoolmate who happened to be Catholic, not realizing the extent to which the song was mocking his religion).Despite the LP's success, it marked the end of Lehrer's recording career. He dabbled in industrial musicals and children's music for a bit, at one point writing songs for the PBS show The Electric Company, but for the most part he returned to academia, citing a distaste for touring and a sense of tedium from playing the same songs over and over (although one suspects that the growing 1960s counterculture had eclipsed his once-radical positions). His songs have been repackaged and reissued many times over the years, and Rhino gave him the box set treatment in 2000 — a testament to the lasting impact of his brief career.Lehrer was raised Jewish, and you can definitely hear hints of Yiddish theater in his vocals. You can also sense, or at least imagine, the underlying plight of the Jewish nerd — I mean, a satirical musician who's also a mathematician seems bound to be a bit of a misfit in both fields, right? But Lehrer rarely addressed Judaism in his material. One exception is the fairly pedestrian "(I'm Spending) Hanukkah in Santa Monica," which is little more than a series of rhymes. A better example comes in one of his best songs, "National Brotherhood Week," the third verse of which go[...]

The Importance of Being Arlo


by Jesse JarnowI can't really put a finger on my earliest memories of hearing Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant Thanksgiving Day Massacree" the same way I can sometimes conjure the primal textures of my first exposures to the Beatles or the Pete Seeger LPs my parents played (at my demand) repeatedly. I remember my father singing "The Motorcycle Song," maybe, as a lullaby. I might be making that up. Perhaps it was just on some family trip. I have vague sleepy recollections of seeing Guthrie with Seeger at Carnegie Hall at one (or several?) of their Thanksgiving concerts in the early '80s and Seeger hollering a solo a capella song while chopping through a small piece of wood with an axe, which was actually quietly terrifying at the time and, in retrospect, also kind of badass. Their double-live album Together in Concert likewise provides my personal platonic Proustian memory: the particular smell of LP cover cardboard trapping the thin plastic sleeves Warner Brothers used during the early '80s. Also, an excellent solo piano version of Guthrie doing Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans" with Seeger (or a lightly overdubbed second Arlo?) joining with not-quite-gusto on the choruses.But I didn't come to tell you about snorting the musty insides of record jackets or great cover songs. I came to tell you about "Alice's Restaurant."One homesick autumn early in college, probably right near Thanksgiving time, I used some pre-Napster file-borrowing technology to nab an mp3 of the straight-up 18:20 album recording of Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant," likely one of the first 10 mp3s I ever downloaded. And somehow, miraculously, it has survived at least 10 laptops and countless panicked harddrive failures and, a decade-and-a-half later, still exists on my harddrive: a profoundly lo-fi 128 kbps rip of the song, untagged with an album or a track number, and with a sound as distinct to my ears as the familiar crackle of a record. My "Alice." (Eat it, Walter Benjamin, and download it below.)When I listened in college, I realized that I pretty much knew all of "Alice," word for word, beat for beat, with full orchestration and proverbial five-part harmony, in some deep down part of me. Later, I appropriated my parents' thrashed Alice LP, held together with yellowing library tape, with its liner notes about "Arlo's folk-style Bar Mitzvah, which was held when he was about 13 1/2 years old in a Second Avenue dance studio loft on New York's lower East Side. Woody was there. So was Cisco Houston, Pete Seeger, The Weavers, and many others. Arlo was ushered into manhood with songs, guitar-pickin', square dancing, harmonica playing, and ritual blessings in what was the first (and probably the only) Hootenanny Bar Mitzvah in history."Arlo's "sweet young rabbi" was a 20-something Meir Kahane, about eight years from founding the ultra-radical Jewish Defense League, their logo a raised fist inside a Star of David. "Rabbi Kahane was a really nice, patient teacher," Guthrie recalled to the Jewish Journal in 2004. "But shortly after he gave me my lessons, he started going haywire. Maybe I was responsible."I was never Bar Mitzvahed. But as the product of a secular hippie upbringing, it was hundreds (thousands?) of memorized texts precisely like "Alice's Restaurant" that helped map my emerging worldview. Sometimes, their ingestion was self-guided and systematic, other times circumstantial and a product of the traditions of the world around me. Alice and the rest-terr-awwnt undoubtedly fell mostly under the latter. Probably, I'm not alone. Guthrie has called "Alice" an "anti-stupidity" song, and it's hard to miss that didactic aspect of the folk-tale. But--as I'd started to observe around college-time--it was also so plainly and obviously a really tight, excellent piece of writing that transmitted content, personality, style and pure lulz. Every single word was jiggled into its proper rhythmic place. Like Hunter S. Thompson's Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, "Alice" was an extended stoned reverie edited [...]

What's Good


by Mike DeCapiteMy conversion experience came when I was about sixteen, I guess. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard Lou Reed——I’d bought Coney Island Baby when it came out, and I’d bought Loaded but couldn’t make out what all the fuss was about (I still can’t). But I brought home White Light/White Heat and had time to play it only once before I had to tear myself away to go out to dinner with my parents. I sat bouncing on the edge of the backseat of that old Impala, just vibrating with excitement after hearing “Sister Ray”——shivering with it, experiencing some kind of aesthetic orgasm. Someone had finally told the truth about something I’d always known, even if I didn’t know I knew it, and then kept going for seventeen minutes so I had time to get used to the fact that someone had done it and admit to myself that this is who I was. From the first chord, I was home.There was nothing unfamiliar about those songs——they opened a window onto where you were living already in your head. They were exactly what you were interested in, exactly what you’d been looking for——exactly what was needed. Who wouldn’t wanna be in the middle of that scene with Cecil and his new piece and the sailor and the bloodstains on the carpet and an arm full of speed and someone sucking on your ding dong? Is it any less than you deserve? Who doesn’t want and expect the freedom to fuck and dress as he or she or he-she pleases? Who wouldn’t play guitar like on “What Goes On,” if you could play the guitar? (Okay, every other guitar player, I guess, but screw them. That’s how I’d do it.) The surprising thing about the songs was their perfect inevitability, both the sound of them and what they were “about.” It’s like they were finally letting go of the good stuff, the real stuff——you know, not one part good stuff to four parts bullshit but everyone in the band doing the perfect thing——you never knew you could get it so pure. Every note the Velvets played was exactly what you wanted——your own desires coming back to you. They were the musical version of the question Burroughs used to ask: Wouldn’t you?People are always describing Lou Reed as the Dark Prince of this or that, as the man who broke the taboos and who wrote about heroin when the Beatles were writing about, I dunno, the circus. But those are adult taboos. What kid is shocked by these things? The only shocking thing about those songs is that they described drug abuse and S&M and homosexuality and transexuality and found nothing shocking there, and they allowed you to admit that you, too, found nothing shocking there. Why would you? You’re a kid, you take the world as it comes. You’re putting the world together for yourself——what do you stand for? Who wouldn’t want to be the kind of person who took the humanity of these people and the intensity of their lives with immediate, unblinking acceptance, as a given? Lou didn’t explain his world and you didn’t need him to. He allowed his subjects and you the dignity of not explaining his world and thereby made it yours.*Maybe twenty-five years later, I caught myself standing stopped in my tracks in the middle of a room in San Francisco while a CD played, and I overheard myself say, “How many times can a person listen to ‘What Goes On’ in his life?” By then I had the usual mixed feelings about Lou Reed, best captured in the single syllable used as currency by those of us who’ve carried a torch for him for all these years: “Lou.”If you’re reading this, you know all about it. (If you don’t, or you want to remind yourself of what was so great about him after the Velvets, go listen to some of his solo stuff, not just “Walk on the Wild Side” but also Coney Island Baby and “Temporary Thing” and “High in the City” and “Romeo Had Juliette” and “Halloween Parade,” and the monologue on “Street Hassle” and the wave of fear that blows across “Perfect Day” [...]

For Me to Miss One Would Seem to Be Groundless


by Will RigbyI started getting serious about listening to music (i.e., reading about it and listening to more than just what was on AM radio) around the age of 14, in 1970. One of the earliest copies of Rolling Stone I bought had the review (by Lenny Kaye) of Loaded, the fourth and final studio album (at least while Lou Reed was a member) by the Velvet Underground. I had probably seen the band's name before, but had never heard the music and knew nothing about them. I didn't hear this record right away, and the next thing we heard was that Lou Reed had quit. But with the invaluable guidance of Bob Northcott (fellow enthusiast and first bandmate), within a year I understood what was great about them and knew the words to "Sweet Jane" and "Rock and Roll"; before much longer I'd acquired the first two albums and was well on my way to musical degeneracy and apostasy, in the best way.In the present age—with instant access to millions of books, almost any song that has ever been recorded, any TV show or movie or work of visual art ever made—it may be hard to appreciate how difficult it could be in 1972 to find/hear an out-of-print record. The search for The Velvet Underground became something of a holy quest for Bob and me. It felt like an eternity but probably took less than a year and a half to get our hands on it, which was done by sending away for lists of cut-out (discontinued and discounted), rare, and bootleg records advertised in little classified ads in the back pages of mags like Creem and Circus. We eventually located two copies of the US LP and two of the UK LP at the same time via mail order, one of each for both of us.In 2013 Bob remembers, but I don't, that the two records sounded different. My UK copy is long gone in one of several rent-party record sales, but I still have that US record and it is this version that I literally grew up listening to. Its very obscurity endeared it to me in a way that only collector types can understand. Thankfully, by the twenty-first century the third VU album had assumed its rightful place of esteem and importance with its brethren. I need not add more to the many who recognize the importance of these four albums, and the fact—astonishing to this day—that none of them is remotely similar to the others.I can't claim anything but obliviousness that I was unaware of the two versions of the album. The mixes are noticeably different on several of the songs (vocal levels, amount of reverb, etc.); the fact is discussed in the book accompanying the 1995 box set Peel Slowly and See; and the Wikipedia page for the album mentions the different versions of "Some Kinda Love." And I had both forty years ago! What I think of as the "original" version is considered the "alternate" version. Sterling Morrison dubbed the mixes on the US LP the "closet mix," a sobriquet he did not mean as a compliment. The single-CD release features (and has since at least the '90s) what are considered the "correct" mixes, known as the (recording engineer) Val Valentin mixes. However, Peel Slowly and See has the "closet mix" of the entire album, the one I'm used to.But when, a few months ago, I noticed that there was a second version of "Some Kinda Love" it was revelatory to me, regardless of the fact that it took me so long. The "closet" version has what I consider one of Lou Reed's two or three best vocal performances ever; by contrast, on the Val Valentin mix/take Lou sounds congested, perhaps even with a cold. The fact that both his book of lyrics and an early Lou Reed box set are titled Between Thought and Expression, a line from this song, suggest that Lou agrees with me that this is one of his most poetic lyrics ever. On the "closet" version, Lou's up-close, almost whispered vocal exudes confidence, conviction, imagination, wit, and sounds like someone who knows he's at the top of his game. The mmmms and oooohs and "la tee ta ta ta"s and the falsetto "lie down upon the carpet" display a bril[...]

Maggie's Farm


When Bob Dylan famously "went electric" at the Newport Folk Festival in July of 1965, he debuted his rock and roll self with a barnstorming version of "Maggie's Farm." Recorded and released earlier that year on Bringing It All Back Home with a band, it swings mid- tempo in the new folk-rock idiom that Dylan was very briefly moving through. When he performed it for the first time at Newport with a hard-ass band featuring Mike Bloomfield, and members of the Butterfield Blues Band, he picked up the tempo and delivered it with Bloomfield's incendiary guitar playing at a volume that caught the unsuspecting folk-fest crowd off-guard. The rest is history, as they say, and whether Pete Seeger really tried to cut the power cables with an axe, or the crowd were booing him for betraying some staid idea of what they thought he should be, is still up for debate. The template was set, and his new record, Highway 61 Revisited, set for release a few weeks after this engagement, would unleash the full "thin wild mercury sound," an aesthetic largely derived from the Chess Records electric blues sides of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Sonny Boy Williamson. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="299" src="" width="399"> "Maggie's Farm" mp3by Bob Dylan, 1965.available on No Direction Home: The Bootleg Series Vol.7"Maggie's Farm," like many of Dylan's compositions, has been interpreted and recorded by a variety of artists across many genres, including Solomon Burke (whose version came out concurrently with Dylan's) Flatt and Scruggs, and The Specials, who invoked a different tyrannical Maggie of 1980's England. Also recorded and released in late 1965 is a version by Linda Gayle which I present to you here. I was recently hipped to this version by my friend Phast Phreddie Patterson, a source of many things hip and relatively unknown. I don't know much about her, and no, she's not Linda Gail Lewis of Ferriday Louisiana. Interestingly though, it's produced by Columbia staff producer Bob Johnston, who was Dylan's producer for the latter part of 1965 through 1970, but not on the original version of "Maggie's Farm," which was recorded with Tom Wilson at the helm. Gayle's version is also a scorcher, and starts with a pretty string arrangement before it takes off into garageland with a buzzsaw guitar and vocal delivery reminiscent of Wanda Jackson or a pissed off punk Dolly Parton. I'm not sure words can aptly describe this record. It's a killer and will catch you off guard much the same way the Dylan's audience had their little minds blown wide open at Newport forty eight years ago this summer.Happy Birthday Bob."Maggie's Farm" mp3by Linda Gayle, 1965.out of print[...]

Earth Man Blues


Today, St. Patrick's Day, marks three years since Alex Chilton's unexpected death. In his memory, I'm posting a record, that until very recently I had never heard. Earth Man Blues by the somewhat mysterious John Byrd Band, was recorded at Ardent in 1976 and released the following year on the local Memphis label, Power Play. Alex is listed as a "Guest Singer" in a band that includes John Byrd, Haines Fullerton, Phil Gallina, and Rit Ritennour. The two songs are credited to John Byrd, whomever that may be. Perhaps he is an invention of Alex (?) in one of his many guises, in the year before he would release his Ork single, produce The Cramps, play with Chris Stamey and the Cossacks in New York, and eventually go on to begin recording his ramshackle masterpiece, Like Flies On Sherbet.

The A-Side, "Earth Man Blues," is sort of a white boy jazzy blues number with a harmonica that nearly ruins it. It has a throwaway feel, but is saved by Chilton's wry delivery a la Bach's Bottom where he goads the guitar player through a pedestrian solo, "Look out It's Byrd, I'm gonna have a fit!" The singer, as usual, is detached and cracking himself up, and he likes it that way.

The B-Side, "Friend At Very Good Time," is a pretty good post-Big Star folk rock ditty that plods along sweetly to an acoustic guitar, probably strummed by Chilton, with the refrain "You opened my mind to whiskey and wine, and it's right back to blowing my mind." Sweet as it may be, there's something amiss on both of these sides, which like most of Alex's mid 70s output, has a tension that threatens everything to fall apart, which is what makes them interesting and compelling.

If any of you sleuths out there know anything about this band, feel free to illuminate me with the details.


"Earth Man Blues" mp3
by the John Byrd Band, 1977.
Power Play 45
out of print

"Friend At A Very Good Time" mp3
by the John Byrd Band, 1977.
Power Play 45
out of print

top photo: by Stephanie Chernikowski

Down With the King: Black Folks & Elvis


Editors Note: Today is the 6th Anniversary of the Boogie Woogie Flu. I'd like to thank all of the talented contributors for helping me limp into another year as I continue to personally have little to say. I'm truly grateful for all the fine contributions I have received over the holidays, and today, from Michael Gonzales, an excellent piece I read in 2007 on his site Blackadelic Pop which he has graciously let me republish on the occasion of what would have been Elvis' 78th Birthday. Happy Birthday Elvis and long live the BWF.**********  by Michael A. Gonzales"Elvis was the king of rock 'n' roll, huh? I guess somebody forgot to tell the folks up in Harlem listening to James Brown" — Black street comedian on 59th Street (circa 1986)"Elvis Presley was my nigga: forget the fact that on his dying day on August 16th, 1977, the so-called King of Rock 'n' Roll was grossly overweight and popping more pills than a pharmaceutical student. Definitely, it might be best to ignore the oft spoken truths that to this day linger like an unchained melody that define the master of hypnotic hips and unmovable hair as a momma's boy who boned teenaged girls years before R. Kelly was born, munched peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and blasted TV sets in the hallowed hotel rooms above the neon glow of Vegas.Even if there are many folks that agreed with Brit-author Martin Amis when he wrote, "Elvis was a talented hick destroyed by success", to me he was so much more. Like the other Caucasians in my then-personal canon of pop culture cool (which included Sean Connery, Elton John, Henry Winkler, Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood), Elvis had a style, swagger, and charisma that radiated beyond the confines of the television screen.Though too young to recall the red, white and blue tears people wept when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, or the shattered glass streets of chocolate cities across America when Martin Luther King was slain, the untimely announcement of Elvis' last gasp rocked my world. Having dealt with death only a few times in my then young life (mother's suicidal friend Thomas, grandma's aged boyfriend Joe), I was devastated by the announcement of Elvis' demise. As my first rock idol in the days before I realized that black dudes were supposed to reject Presley on principle, I watched with rabid interest as folks across the country cried while sharing their favorite Elvis memories with the newscaster.In a Kodak flash, I relived those many late nights when me and baby brother would stay-up past our bedtime just to sneak peeks at the Elvis flicks that were broadcast occasionally in the midnight hour on the CBS Late Movie. From the fury of Jailhouse Rock to the kitsch of Viva Las Vegas to the goofiness of Speedway, we were both enthralled by the manic energy of Elvis. While mom had a monthly subscription to Ebony and Sepia magazines, and had even enrolled us in an after-school class in Black History, we never realized that we could be considered traitors to the race for digging the sounds of a guitar strumming bad boy standing on the hood of a stock car or tonguing down va-va-voom Ann Margret.Spending the latter part of the summer of '77 at Aunt Ricky's crib in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, where she, Uncle Ed and older cousin Denise were the only brown faces in the community, issues of race were never discussed. With the exception of the peaceful image of M.L.K. on Sunday morning church fans (a constant reminder that a mere few years before, down south brothers and sisters were still sitting in the back of the bus or being bitten by police dogs), there was no talk of integration, race relations or the countless student uprisings that still rumbled in colleges campuses.In her late-thirtes, Aunt Ricky was a beautiful brown-skinned woman with a wide smile, a thick body (Uncle Ed called her "butterball"), and a voice that had a stern singsong [...]

Bert Berns' Seven-Year Itch


by Andy Schwartz“Okay…so you scratch your head, you look at the guy who represents the company and he’s dead serious. Furthermore, he’s telling you all the sweet things a weary producer loves to hear:  ‘Money’s no object…Get all the down cats you need…Just give ‘em soul.’ So you finish scratching your head and you reach for the nearest phone. You’re cooking, you’re really cooking! So you call Teacho Wiltshire to make the arrangements, and he says ‘okay.’ Then you get tensed up because it hits you like a rock about all the things you’ll need – songs, the right artists, the right sounds…Give ‘em soul. The next couple of days your desk is piled up with all the great R&B records of the past, including a few original things which will knock everyone out. And then, right smack between all that sweet confusion, all the empty and grotesque coffee containers and crushed cigarette butts, it was there. I mean pow!” - Bert Berns, from his liner notes for Capitol LP George Hudson Presents Give ‘Em SoulReally, it’s all there, in his own words – maybe not the details, but the atmosphere of a Bert Berns production. You feel the sense of near–desperate improvisation, the need to make something out of nothing. The desk “piled up with all the great R&B records of the past” – the better to pinch a time–tested hook, riff, or chorus. The “original things that will knock everyone out” – because after all, the same Berns original (or a variation of it) already knocked everyone out the previous two times he cut it with other singers, and if it didn’t…hey, third time’s the charm, right?And always, the insatiable demands of Capital: To give ‘em soul, or a Western–flavored folk song, or a Latin boogaloo, or a dance named for a zoo animal because that’s what’s happening right now or at least what somebody thinks might be happening in about three weeks which is when they’re planning to release this record he’s trying to create from nothing. The red light is on in the control room, the union clock is running, the studio bills are starting to pile up, but Bert is cooking, he’s really cooking and…pow!In this hothouse atmosphere, in a career that spanned just seven turbulent years, Bert Berns created a handful of songs and recordings that echo to the present day: “Twist and Shout” by the Isley Brothers, “My Girl Sloopy” by The Vibrations, “Here Comes The Night” by Them, “Piece Of My Heart” by Erma Franklin, “Brown–Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “Tell Him” by The Exciters.“His unique voice as a songwriter, producer and record man is so deeply ingrained into the fabric of pop music, it has become common parlance,” writes veteran music journalist Joel Selvin in the introduction to his forthcoming biography Here Comes The Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns &; The Dirty Business Of Rhythm & Blues. Berns’ songs, says Selvin, “have been covered, quoted, cannibalized, used as salvage parts and recycled so many times, his touch has just dissolved into the literature. His name may be lost, but his music is everywhere.”There are the records everyone knows. There are the records everyone should know but that arrived stillborn, or expired soon after delivery: “My Tears Are Dry” by Hoagy Lands, “It’s Been A Long, Long Time” by Dotty Clark, Ben E. King’s searing “It’s All Over,” Lulu’s towering rendition of “Here Comes The Night.” And then there are the records that make you scratch your head – like the guy in the Give ‘Em Soul liner notes – and wonder who thought that sounded like some kind of a hit.Time: There never seemed to be enough of it for the child born to a Russian Jewish immigrant couple in the Bronx on November 8, 1929, to whom his free–thinking father gave the name Bertra[...]

Hell on Earth


by Ariella StokThere is not much talk of fire and brimstone in Judaism, nor gruesome landscapes of eternal damnation and demonic torture. A vague concept of the afterlife was appended to the religion in later iterations, but it is not a focus nor is there much consensus of what it might entail. To the extent that hell is discussed in Jewish texts, it is often given as a state of being that one need not wait until after death to experience. Described as a feeling of intense shame that accompanies bad deeds, the condition of being on the outs with God, hell is readily available right here in the earthy realm.In 1949, a Jewish Hell was born in Lexington, Kentucky, in the form of a baby boy named Richard Meyers, the son of parents who had met as graduate students in psychology at Columbia University. Although his mother was Methodist, it was his Jewish father’s New York-based family with whom he was close. In a new autobiography, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp, due out on Ecco/Harper Collins in March, 2013, he writes of his family background:"There wasn’t much awareness of family, or family history. I had no real understanding of what a Jew was, for instance, though I knew that my father’s family fit that description somehow. I thought Judaism was a religion, and we didn’t have any religion."Instead, American pop culture of the 50s was his creed: "We lived in the suburbs in America in the fifties. My roots are shallow. I’m a little jealous of people with strong ethnic and cultural roots. Lucky Martin Scorcese or Art Spiegelman or Dave Chappelle. I came from Hopalong Cassidy and Bugs Bunny and first grade at ordinary Maxwell Elementary."He became a disciple of Saturday morning TV—Zorro and the Cisco Kid—and the cinema, via the Westerns of John Ford and Howard Hawks, and through these he arrived at a model that would inform his earliest identity as an artist:"I grew up thinking men worked best in wandering small teams, usually two-man. You needed someone to conspire with, someone to help you maintain the nerve to carry out your ideas. Someone to know what you were thinking (otherwise your thinking didn’t really exist.) Someone who had qualities you wanted, maybe, too, and which you could acquire to some degree by association."Among his earliest memories as a child was the impulse to run away, “of dreaming and conspiring in a hideout, beyond the pale.” After a string of minor infractions and foiled attempts he made his penultimate escape attempt with his latest best friend, Tom Miller, who he met while attending boarding school in Delaware. Heading south to Florida, the two-man team planned to become poets and live off the fat of the land. They made it as far as Alabama, where they were arrested for setting an open field ablaze with an out-of-control campfire, and sent back home. Upon return, Richard got a after-school job in a pornographic bookstore to save up for the bus ticket that took him to New York City two months later—his permanent escape, while Tom stayed behind to finish high school and a year of college before joining his friend in the city, where the two became inseparable partners in crime, staying up all night talking and then crashing on each other’s floors, frequenting the same artists bars like Max’s Kansas City, and working together at a film bookstore called Cinemabilia that was managed by future music entrepreneur, Terry Ork. Although Richard had originally moved to New York to become a writer, he decided on a change of plans after he and Tom attended a performance at the Mercer Art Center by the New York Dolls—a band whose outsized influence was due in no small part to removing the barrier of skill from making music and replacing it with a wild, flamboyant energy that suggested the fantasy that rock stardom was in anyone’s grasp. [...]

Stan Getz Was The Voice Of The Angels, and Stan Getz Was A Schmuck


"Stan Getz is bunch of nice guys" –Zoot Simsby Joe Schwab Being a teenage dope-fiend and a raging alcoholic on a bender streching out over three decades can take a toll on a man. Despite being in posession of prodigious talent, even the strongest of men can be brought to their knees. Stan Getz succumbed to that, making him moody, violent and confrontational. Despite these shortcomings, he was a man whose talents were beyond reproach. After fooling around with a few instruments as a kid, he settled on saxophone. And although it can’t be substantiated, it’s said he mastered the instrument in four months. Stan had found his voice with the tenor saxophone. While correctly associated with the Lester Young School of the tenor, his playing always brought on a kind of distant howl like a shofer from the temple, reminiscent of his Jewish upbringing, a Jewish Prez if you will. It should be said to those who feel that he was just a Lester Young impersonator, Prez himself was always an admirer and champion of Getz. Stan had it all, movie star good looks, a beautiful home, a lovely family, a gorgeous wife and that supreme talent. He seemed to want it all, the normal life and the life of a Jazz star, but his demons always got the best of him. Stan Getz was a junkie, a bad drunk, a lousy husband, father and friend. I’m certain he was a crappy Jew as well, I’m not sure how often he frequented the synagogue, but I’m guessing not very often. Music was not always his number one priority. Women and drugs were usually the order of business that preceded all, um… musical business.Stan and Steve Getz at the St. Louis Zoo, 1961.So now we all know that Getz was a schmuck (much of the time), it should also be known that the man made some fine music, and to this day is arguably considered one of the top five tenor players in Jazz history. His break-out solo on Woody Herman’s “Early Autumn” started it all. Then came his great body of work for Roost, Verve, Prestige and those great European recordings of the 50’s. Getz will be best remembered for the Bossa Nova records with Charlie Byrd, Joao Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfa, Laurindo Almeida and of course Astrid Gilberto. While all these recordings are anywhere from great to classic, his body of work from the last 10-15 years of his life may be his finest output. His choice of songs and personnel were beyond reproach. He could piss off his band mates, knowing that rehearsal was not something he needed. He could naturally pick up tunes and tempo without the effort that so many musicians have to practice for years. He had amazing dexterity, a fabulous sense of harmony and that unmistakable Getz sound. Stan stopped drinking in 1985. For the first time in his life he was going into the studio clean and sober with a clear mind and body. Despite his fears of recording without the aid of drink and drugs, the results were extraordinary. Although it was released posthumously the album Bossas and Ballads was his strongest effort in years and one of his all-time best. Getz was diagnosed with liver cancer in 1987, years of drug and alcohol abuse having finally caught up with him. Although the prognosis was dire, he kept working as well as teaching at Stanford. Aside from cleaning up and adding an herb diet, he spent the remainder of his life atoning his sins and making amends to all the family and friends he had wronged in the past. For some, it was too little too late, but to those close to him such as his band and family it was a rediscovery of the man they only saw on occasion. Getz died in 1991 at his home in Malibu, dozens of new recordings have surfaced since (all of them excellent) and his daughter Bev Getz curates a wonderful website devoted to Stan’s legacy. [...]

Doc's Holiday Fever


by Sharyn FelderMy father, Jerome Solon Felder (aka Doc Pomus) was a super Jew to his core, but not at all religious. His rabbi died a week before he was to be Bar Mitzvahed, which he took at once to be a relief and an omen. His British mother Millie kept kosher, but practically encouraged her sons Jerome and Raoul to eat bacon outside the home, because she believed it had healing properties. The formalities of religion for him were not at all necessary. There was no battle between celebrating Chanukah and Christmas. He saw the holiday season as quite simply a festive opportunity and excuse to SHOP for others - to dole out large quantities of the year’s carefully accumulated stuff. The swag was always very well intentioned, but occasionally bordered on crap: trinkets, baubles and tchotchkies, for those nearest and dearest and sometimes real high-end goods too.  No matter the quality, people were genuinely moved by his very thoughtful gestures. But he was no saint, and he did not suffer fools.  Like his good friend Joel Dorn used to say to me, “If he didn’t dig you, man, could he ice you.”  Needless to say, he didn’t get gifts for everyone. Dad had a jones for shopping, an activity that a guy stuck in a wheelchair with wads of cash could easily handle. He could station himself inside of a favorite bookstore or record shop like Final Vinyl and be happy for hours. For himself, he bought large cowboy hats, flea market finds, exotic belt buckles, hand-made leather pouches, love potions and ointments, chunky turquoise-nugget rings, snake or lizard skin shoes, as well as endless books and records.  But mostly he loved shopping for gifts for others and always seemed to catch the Christmas/Chanukah fever right after Thanksgiving. He began by reviewing and always adding new names to his extensive Christmas card list, put together from saved cards he had received from old friends over the years: B.B. King, Phil Spector, Mr. & Mrs. Joe Turner, Ben E. King, Ellie Greenwich, Leiber and Stoller, Micky Baker, Gerry Goffin, and on, and on. He loved the process of selecting the swag destined for family, friends, and flavors of the month. He lavished them with stuff he had stashed over the previous year, kept in specified drawers and cabinets, in plastic bags, and in little boxes earmarked for those he really liked: his favorite waitresses at each of the clubs and restaurants he frequented;secretaries at record companies, BMI, and Warner/Chappell; large bags of toys delivered to a downtown children’s hospital; for the the porters, doormen and the mailmen that he liked; or for Belle, the old lady down the hall. The extensive gifts ran the gamut - they might be inscribed, carefully selected books by Peter Guralnick, Jayne Ann Phillips, or Elmore Leonard; or a photobook by Walker Evans or Weegee. He often bought me photography or cookbooks and always inscribed them to me, his only daughter, as “to my favorite daughter” or conversely “to my least favorite daughter.”Doc would also purchase a wide range of trinkets from an old-time salesman that he liked to throw business to named Sol Winkler. Sol came to his apartment on West 72nd Street, and had been coming to him since my father lived at the Forrest Hotel during the Brill Building days. He would open his pocket-lined coat, stuffed with pens, knives and two–in–one gadgets; and had suitcases filled with notions, frames, and wallets - everything always of questionable value. He might buy something from Sidney Mills of Mills publishing, who sold watches on the side, or from Carmine DeNoya (aka Wassel), a legendary music business and dear old wiseguy friend, who might offer him something fallen off the back of a truck or from a barter deal. Then the[...]

The Jewish Princess of Soul


by Polly Bresnick In Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good," she laments in her signature seductive contralto:I cheated myself like I knew I would. I told you, that I was trouble.You know that I'm no good. It goes without saying that rehab wasn't the answer. Friends suggested she try it, but she said "no no no," insisting that it didn't work for her. (As the lyrics of the song imply, a creepy doctor did more harming than healing: He said 'I just think you're depressed, Kiss me, yeah baby, and go rest.') If we interpret Amy Winehouse's lyrics as even loosely autobiographical, we can find a pattern. She seems to have desperately wanted to be good (a common enough soul trope), though as hard as she tried, being good just didn't come naturally to her, it didn't seem to be her greatest talent.  What she lacked in sainthood ability, folks seem to agree, she made up for in music-making talent. Try listening to any of her songs (especially the ones on her second album that feature backing from the Dap-Kings) without breaking into a mini-hustle in your seat. Good luck not snapping a finger or quick-clapping along with Amy on the one. Her album Back to Black led to six Grammy Award nominations and five wins, tying the then record for the most wins by a female artist in a single night. She was the first British female to win five Grammys. In 2012, Winehouse was listed at number 26 on VH1's 100 Greatest Women In Music. She may have been a pipsqueak physically, but her impact on the world of female musicians and fans was big. Like, bigger than her hair and her attitude combined. Of course it was — she sang with delicious smoky soul reminiscent of Etta James and Sarah Vaughan, she rocked a Bride-of-Frankenstein beehive. Understandably, it's these characteristics that immortalize her, and also maybe her tattoos. What not everyone knows is that she dreamed of one day becoming a nice Jewish cook like her bubbie, a real berryer who made her own gefiltefish from scratch, no lie. Referring to Winehouse, Sarah Silverman may or may not have quipped, "She is Jewish, right? If she isn’t, someone should tell her face." This is kind of funny. Ms. Winehouse's face did look Jewish, whatever that means (because it was). But the fact that her jewishness was in question makes sense too, right? She was so cool, so brassy and bold, so soulful, so black. Her face, for the few readers who don't know, also happens to have been quite pretty. If there's any question about whether Silverman's comment was complimentary, I'll gladly admit that I wouldn't mind if that astutely observant woman publicly insisted that, according to my face, I'm probably Jewish. Years before her Bat Mitzvah, as an innocent pre-teen, little Amy Winehouse — her nails bitten to the quicks, her baseball cap pulled low over her dark eyes, and her Disney World T-shirt hanging loose around her shapeless torso— started a hip hop duo with her friend and called it Sweet 'n Sour. They fancied themselves the "little white Jewish Salt 'n Pepa." I was about that same age when my fascination with hip hop was initiated by Lil' Kim. I diligently memorized Kim's best phrases, the ones I knew I shouldn't say aloud in public. That girl's aggressive power was irresistible. Many years later, I teamed with Lena Sradnick to form Mami Tsunami, a badass team of girl rappers. We battled the boy team. Why do Jewish girls want to do this? Are Hebrew prayers like raps? They're not really. I think it's more a symptom of this (and I'm allowed to make the following half-hearted generalization because I'm describing my own cultural subset): cultural Jews are characterized by their bookishness, their lack of athletic coordination, and their timid nature. Hip hop presents t[...]

What's My Name?


by Ben Greenman1.How do you know that a band has Jewish roots? Maybe if they assimilate into the world around them without losing sight of the strands that resist assimilation: political expression, other immigrant cultures. Maybe if they ask more questions than they answer. Maybe if they seem like they don't have Jewish roots.2.Michael Geoffrey Jones had a Welsh father and a Russian-Jewish mother. He spent much of his childhood with his maternal grandmother. In his teens, he took an interest in Britain's music scene, first in a glam-rock band called The Delinquents, then in a punk band. When he was a young man of 21, he met a slightly older young man named John Graham Mellor, also a veteran of local bands, and the two of them joined forces in a new musical concern. Take a look at these two, standing there. Blink. It's the Clash, and Michael's Mick Jones and John's Joe Strummer. Close your eyes again. This time don't open your eyes just yet. Try to hear the music they made without seeing, in your mind's eye, the iconic images that went along with them: Paul Simonon smashing his bass in the cover photo of London Calling, of course, but all the rest, too, boys leaning in doorways, proudly held microphones, guitars wielded like weapons. Okay. You can open your eyes now, though you may not want to.3.When people are told that Mick Jones is Jewish, they usually have one of two responses.a) "No way! I didn't know that."b) "You told me that yesterday, and I didn't believe it then either."But maybe it's not as strange as it sounds. American punks were largely Jewish, from Richard Hell to Joey Ramone, and while the demographics of British punks aren't as immediately apparent, they're relevantly similar. Take the prime mover of first-wave British punk, Malcolm McLaren. He sounds like he's Scottish because his father was, but that same father left when he was two and Malcolm was raised, largely, by his grandmother Rose Corre Isaacs, who came from a wealthy Portugese Sephardic family. (The Corre name went to McLaren's son withVivienne Westwood, Joseph, who founded Agent Provocateur). Even within the Clash, it was more the rule than the exception. Joe Strummer's father's mother's father was Jewish. And the band's other lead guitarist, Keith Levene, who was fired soon after Jones joined, was also half-Jewish (though father, not mother, which makes him less Jewish than Jones or McLaren according to matrilineal-descent rules).4.The Clash's career needs no review. Does it? If it does we are all older than we think. The band recorded a series of slashing singles that established them as the world's best punk band. Maybe you've heard them: "I Fought the Law," "Complete Control," "White Man in Hamersmith Palais," "I'm So Bored of the U.S.A." Then they became the world's best band, period, branching out into rockabilly and dub and funk and pop. If you need a more detailed summary than that, maybe you should be looking elsewhere.5.Longer articles, even entire books, have been spent analyzing the dynamic between Jones and Strummer. Generally speaking, though this is almost so general as to be inaccurate, Strummer was the straight line, the political firebrand and musical agitator, and Jones was the steadying force that permitted and even encouraged divagations into pop music. There is some evidence for this woefully incomplete theory. Early on in the band's career, Jones wrote and sang "1-2 Crush on You," which sounds at first like Sha-Na-Na and then like a not especially punky (but especially expert and energetic) love song. Other Jones contributions were relevantly similar in tone: "Train In Vain," from London Calling, and even "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" But Jones wasn't all soft McCartney[...]

The Rich Fag Jew and the Cellar Full of Goys





by Alex Abramovich Friends of mine were marrying shiksas. Kristins, Cristinas, (both with and without the “h”), a Ceridwen in the mix.Tevya, the milkman, would not have approved.The milkman had had it tough, raising six Jewish daughters (Tzeitel, Hodel, Chava, Shprintze, Bielke, and Teibelin) in Tsarist/rabidly anti-Semitic Russia.We first met Tevya in 1894, in a short story by Sholem Aleichem. It was followed by other short stories, a silent film (Aleichem himself wrote the treatment) and various stage adaptations. (Click HERE to see a clip of the Yiddish Art Theater’s 1939 Yiddish-language film, Tevya.) Given the plot, which has to do with Tevya's loss of his daughters, it’s fitting that the story shed a daughter—Teibelin—as the years and productions went by."Tradition" mp3by Topol, 1971.available on Fiddler on the RoofZero Mostel played Tevya in 1964, in a Broadway adaptation that ran for 3,242 performances; Bette Middler and Pia Zadora both took turns as daughters. (Click HERE to see Mostel wave his arms around and sing “If I Were a Rich Man,” and HERE to see him on the Muppet Show.) Chaim Topol, who’d played Tevye in the musical’s West End production, starred in Norman Jewison’s adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof. You might remember it as shtetl schmaltz—a sort of proto-Yentl—but the film played well forty years ago. Pauline Kael admired Topol’s “rough presence" and "burly, raw strength." One man’s meat was another man’s medley.Given Fiddler’s themes, which have to do with displacement as well as tradition (“as Tevye’s daughters marry and disperse, and the broken family is driven off its land and starts the long trek to American, his story becomes the story of the Jewish people who came to America at the turn of the century,” Kael wrote), it’s fitting that the musical’s songs travelled far from their starting points. Take Cannonball Adderley, who recorded Cannonball Adderley’s Fiddler on the Roof a few weeks after the musical opened:"Fiddler On The Roof" mp3by Cannonball Adderly, 1964.available on Cannonball Adderly's Fiddler on the RoofFor whatever reason, Adderley’s cover of “Tradition” is called “Fiddler on the Roof"; when The Soul Brothers covered Adderley’s cover they retained the title: "Fiddler On The Roof" mp3by The Soul Brothers, 1967available on Hot Shot: Ska Jump Up & Soul Instrumentalsout of printThe Soul Brothers grew out of the Skatalites: Jackie Mittoo, Roland Alphonso, etc. In 1966 they became the Soul Vendors. Recording non-stop, they backed Slim Smith, the Wailers, the Maytals - the full list puts them in Funk Brothers/Wrecking Crew/Booker T. & the MGs territory. Their re-recording of “Fiddler on the Roof” stood at some remove from the source material:"Swing Easy" mp3by The Soul Vendors, 1966available on Downbeat the Ruler: Best of Studio One Vol. 3The years went by. Louchie Lou & Michie One turned another Fiddler song into a ragga anthem—“Rich Girl”—that Gwen Stefani went on to cover. Years later, I married a nice, Jewish girl from Tucson. To the best of my knowledge, “Matchmaker,” “L’chaim,” and “Sunrise, Sunset” are still up for grabs.[...]

2120 South Michigan Avenue


 After the Stones released their first LP, they set out for the US in the summer in 1964. They didn't exactly conquer America. On the heels of the Beatles success here before them, they arrived with no big hit record to promote and to less fanfare than they were used to back home in the UK. The first leg of their tour was marked by poor attendance and a US Television debut on the Hollywood Palace in which they were ridiculed by host Dean Martin. Still, remarkable things were happening. At the San Antonio State Fair, on a bill they shared with George Jones, Keith would meet his future running buddy and saxophonist Bobby Keys, born on the exact same as day as him. In New York, Keith meets and starts a romance with Ronnie Spector. The Stones also get their first taste of American radio stations where they find some of the material that they set out to record in the coming months. They played to enthusiastic, yet small crowds and before the summer of '64 was through, they would have their first #1 record in the UK with a cover of The Valentinos "It's All Over Now." Recorded on the shores of Lake Michigan at Chess Studios, in the same room that produced the recordings of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Howlin' Wolf, and Muddy Waters that had inspired them to hone their chops in London and to become The Rolling Stones. These recordings, along with a few batches of tracks cut in London and then in Los Angeles with Jack Nitzsche later that year, comprise all of the material for their next few singles, EPs, and Rolling Stones No.2 (UK) 12x5 (US) and the remaining tracks to fill out their third US LP Rolling Stones Now!  For the Stones to find themselves recording at Chess at this early stage in their career was by all accounts a dream come true, and as Keith describes in his autobiography the feeling that they "had died and gone to heaven." The songwriting team of Jagger-Richards had yet to blossom into the prolific writers they would become, and still relying heavily on covers, they delved into material from some of their usual sources (Howlin' Wolf and Chuck Berry) as well as interpretations of songs by The Drifters, Irma Thomas, Barbara Lynn, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding. Below are the tracks that the Stones used as their source material, as well as a handful of their own compositions that rounds out the watershed year of 1964 and on into early be continued... "It's All Over Now" mp3by the Valentinos, 1964.available on Do It Right"Good Times, Bad Times" mp3by The Rolling Stones, 1964.available on 12 X 5"If You Need Me" mp3by Solomon Burke, 1963.available on Very Best of Solomon BurkeThe Stones most likely learned "If You Need Me" from the Solomon Burke version, which was a hit and the flip side of his version of Gene Allison's "You Can Make It If You Try" which they had previously recorded in England. The original by Wilson Pickett, was presented to Jerry Wexler at Atlantic as a demo when Pickett was trying to get a deal with them. Much to Pickett's chagrin, Atlantic gave the song to Burke to record, and eventually signed Pickett in 1964.  "If You Need Me" mp3by Wilson Pickett, 1962.available on Greatest Hits"Empty Heart" mp3by The Rolling Stones, 1964.available on 12 X 5"2120 South Michigan Avenue" mp3The Rolling Stones, 1964.available on 12 X 5"Confessin' the Blues" mp3by Chuck Berry, 1960.available on Rockin' at the HopsThe Stones probably learned "Confessin the Blues" from the Chuck Berry version, but theirs is played slower and not unlike the original 1941 version by Jay McShann that was the flip side of "Hootie Blues"  featuring the first ever recorded solo by Ch[...]

Play Ball!



Say hey, it's opening day.



"Say Hey (The Willie Mays Song)" mp3
by The Treniers, 1955.
available on Best of the Treniers: They Rock They Roll

Jerry "Boogie" McCain 1930-2012


Rest in Peace, Boogie."My Next Door Neighbor" mp3by Jerry McCain and His Upstarts, 1957.available on Excello Blues: House Rockin' & Hip Shakin'"Trying To Please" mp3by Jerry McCain and His Upstarts, 1957.out of print"That's What They Want" mp3by Jerry McCain and His Upstarts, 1954.available on Excello Blues: House Rockin' & Hip Shakin'"Courtin' In A Cadillac" mp3by Jerry McCain and His Upstarts, 1954.available on Jook Joint Blues: Good Time Rhythm & Blues[...]

What's That Song? (pt. 2)


Today is the second anniversary of Alex Chilton's untimely passing. Last year I posted a handful of the records that Alex covered. Today, I offer a few more of those songs that he lovingly interpreted over the years. Some you know, some you might not, all of them great. For more of these, tune into the archive of my March 14th show on WFMU's Rock 'n Soul Ichiban: HERERIP LXDownload:"Take It Off" mp3by Groundhog, 1969.out of print"Te-Ni-Nee-Ni-Nu" mp3by Slim Harpo, 1968.available on The Excello Singles Anthology"Tip On In (part one)" mp3by Slim Harpo, 1967.available on The Excello Singles Anthology"Alligator Man" mp3by Jimmy Newman, 1962.available on Cajun Country Music of a Louisiana Man"Waltz Across Texas" mp3by Ernest Tubb and his Texas Troubadours, 1965.available on Definitive Collection"B-A-B-Y" mp3by Carla Thomas, 1966.avaliable on The Complete Stax/Volt Singles: 1959-1968"Lipstick Traces (On A Cigarette)" mp3by Benny Spellman, 1962.available on Fortune Tellertop photo: Alex Chilton Onstage, CBGB, 1977. by Godlis[...]

Fluville on WFMU's Rock 'n' Soul Ichiban



Folks, I'm thrilled to announce that I'm now doing a weekly show on WFMU's Rock 'n' Soul Ichiban. It streams to your computer, mobile device, internet radio, as well as the tinfoil you've attached to your skull LIVE on Wednesday nights from 8-10PM EST. Or, you can listen to the ARCHIVE at your convenience anywhere, anytime.

You can hear my first show from January 25th HERE and more as they're added weekly. I'm still working out the kinks and the mic breaks from show #1 are a little rough. It'll get better, I swear. There's great music streaming there 24 hours a day and live shows being added to the line-up soon, as well as the Ichiban overlord Debbie D on Fridays from 3-5PM EST.

I played this record last week...



"Nobody's Fault But Mine" mp3
by Otis Redding, 1967.
available on Immortal Otis Redding

artwork by Takeshi Tadatsu

Only Women Bleed


by Polly BresnickEtta James, who passed away last week, could not only sing with searing soul that simultaneously strikes fear and sorrow and strength into the hearts of anyone who hears her voice, but she also bridged the gap between R&B and Rock & Roll back when people were still impressed by that kind of feat, way back when a band of light-skinned black girls was called the "Creolettes," way back when the song title "Roll With Me Henry" was so suggestive for a fourteen-year-old girl to sing, that the title was changed for the radio. Her songs have helped me muscle through serious heartsickness, and her signature wolf/owl howl/hoot grace notes give me chills even though I know each one by heart. I won't go into her haunting and solemn vocal opening to a performance of "Something's Got a Hold On Me" in 1966 on a television show called The !!!! Beat. And don't even get me started about all her songs about being heartbroken at a wedding and desperately wishing to speak now instead of forever holding her peace. src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="300" width="399">She was 73 years old, mentally and physically ill, but her death was a strange thing in my mind. Each time I listen to her soul-wringing, tear-salted mournfully lonesome rants it sounds a bit like the intimate sound of someone dying a little death, having a petit mort, an orgasm or paroxysm or all of the above. Her songs so convincingly chronicle her experience of emotional murder by loves who left her — got married or cheated or lied or didn't listen or didn't trust her or just didn't love her back — that in my mind, she died and revived enough times to achieve immortal status. This isn't to say that I didn't feel sad to learn she'd died. I did, a nagging bit of sad, like a pebble in my boot. I hadn't been following her later career very closely. I only knew she'd recently released an album because my father asked for it for his birthday. What she did with her voice and her soul when it was still so street, so raw and ambitious and broad, like her life actually depended on getting the pain out — "W.O.M.A.N.," "I'd Rather Go Blind," "All Could Do Was Cry," "Stop the Wedding," "Something's Got a Hold on Me" — these are the songs that go and put a hurtin' on me. But, when Etta died, a friend pointed out to me a late-career recording of her cover of Alice Cooper's "Only Women Bleed." Admittedly, it caught my ear initially for what I thought to be it's absurdity. But then it lingered.Maybe I'm being an overly sensitive post-post-feminist, but I hear an interesting note of old-fashioned chauvinism in the opening lines of this track: "Man's got his woman / to take his seed, he's got the power / she's got the need." It quickly becomes clear, though, who's side this song is on. Etta's version is a pained and sweating, R&B/gospel, unsentimental sermon/anthem for abused women, while Alice Cooper's (especially next to Etta's) sounds more like a soundtrack for a domestic violence PSA or a commercial for a charity to help battered women in inner city Detroit. Etta owns the lower register of this song with rumbling force that is bigger and louder and more convincing than any garden-variety "girl power" or feminism, the surface of which Alice Cooper seems to be attempting to scratch with his wimpy and predictable smooth rock growl-harmonize-falsetto-hook-bridge-jam. Etta James breathes life into the song's disturbing subject matter with[...]

Five Years in Fluville



Today we celebrate five years of the Boogie Woogie Flu, and while this strange endeavor may be limping along at a limited capacity, we are, still here. And, what better way to celebrate this miraculous event than to listen to the the b-side of James Brown's 1978 smash hit, "The Spank." JB's own version of "Love Me Tender," because, after all, it's Elvis' Birthday too.

Happy Birthday Elvis from all your friends in Fluville.



"Love Me Tender" mp3
by James Brown, 1978.
available on James Brown: The Singles Volume 10: 1975-1979

Jerry Ragovoy in the Cathedral Of Soul


by Andy SchwartzWhen Howard Tate died on December 2, 2011, most obituaries for the great soul singer mentioned the name of another man who’d passed on in July of this year. Jerry Ragovoy (September 4, 1930 – July 13, 2011) was a songwriter, producer, pianist, and the studio Svengali behind Tate’s career masterpiece, the 1967 Verve album originally issued as Howard Tate and later retitled Get It While You Can.Arguably, Ragovoy never made a better album in his career. In fact, Rags didn’t make that many albums: Much of his most influential music appeared on singles released before 1967, when Sgt. Pepper broke the “album market” wide open. Howard Tate/Get It While You Can features superb vocal performances by Tate, whether singing church–flavored ballads (the title track, “I Learned It All The Hard Way”) or blues standards (“How Blue Can You Get”); sturdy arrangements by Ragovoy, frequent partner Garry Sherman, or Artie Butler; and tough, committed playing by a cast of NYC session players including pianist Paul Griffin and guitarists Cornell Dupree and Eric Gale.Finally, Howard Tate/Get It While You Can contains the original versions of some of Ragovoy’s best and most–covered compositions including “Ain't Nobody Home” (B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt), “Get It While You Can” (Janis Joplin), and “Look At Granny Run Run” (Grand Funk, Ry Cooder). Several notable non–LP singles emerged from the Tate sessions including “Stop,” written by Ragovoy with Mort Shuman, later covered by both Sam Moore and Jimi Hendrix.But if Jerry Ragovoy had never worked with Howard Tate…had never written “Get It While You Can” or “Ain’t Nobody Home”…we’d still be hanging his name in the Soul Hall of Fame. Here are some of the reasons why:GARNET MIMMS & THE ENCHANTERS – “Cry Baby” mp3Written by Jerry Ragovoy (as “Norman Meade”) and Bert Berns (as “Bert Russell”) Released July 1963 as United Artists 629. No. 1 Billboard R&B (three weeks), No. 12 Pop. available on Cry BabyIn his liner notes for the 1993 CD Cry Baby: The Best of Garnet Mimms (all 25 tracks produced by Jerry Ragovoy), Robert Pruter wrote that prior to the July 1963 release of this landmark single, the sporadic soul hits of the period were “mainly easily digestible songs by Sam Cooke and Chuck Jackson that fitted well into the pop mainstream of the day, so that nothing seemed alien or new about them. ‘Cry Baby’ was different. The song was a gospelized production so full of the soul–saving, fire–and–brimstone ecstasies of the black sanctified church that it singularly stood apart…Never had the public heard anything so intense and so emotional on Top 40 radio.”Ragovoy told Pruter he’d worked on the song “on and off for about two years” and, in his efforts to place the finished master, had been given the brush–off by executives at various labels: “Typically, in the record industry, if it doesn’t sound like anything the record executives are familiar with, they turn it down.” With Jerry as writer and producer, Garnet Mimms placed eight more songs on the Billboard R&B Singles chart. The consistent excellence of their output was such that even Mimms’ commercial misfires later became ideal cover material: “Look Away” for the Spencer Davis Group with Stevie Winwood, “My Baby” for Janis Joplin.ERMA FRANKLIN – “Piece of My Heart” mp3Written by Jerry Ragovoy an[...]

Jeff Chandler: My Second Cousin Removed


by Dave the Spazz“Don’t ever let them operate on your back. That’s how we lost Jeff Chandler.”--Don Van Vliet 1Today’s Hanukkah’s Jew answers to the name of 1950s movie star Jeff Chandler. My Aunt Penny used to swear that Chandler was her cousin from the old neighborhood; however, his absence from any and all family functions caused some concern at the time that Aunt Penny might be full of shit. Claiming familial ties to Jeff Chandler was just schlubby enough to be true so I believed her. Aunt Penny’s son David changed his name from Abramson to Chandler so you can count him as another believer. 2Jeff Chandler was one of the biggest box office leading men of the 1950s but any enduring fame seems locked into that nervous decade. After serving in World War II, the East New York native sharpened his acting chops in radio comedies and dramas (most notably as doofus biology teacher Philip Boynton on Our Miss Brooks). By the early fifties the former Ira Grossel reinvented himself into the tall, dark and Semitic matinee hero Hollywood had apparently been searching for.Chandler was generally typecast as the affable, prematurely gray, leading man sort of chap--a stack of good looks with the charisma of a goldfish. He was Cary without the Grant, Gregory sans Peck, he was more Clark Kent than Clark Gable. Tanned and bland, Chandler was just a yutz with a granite chin.In the seventies I remember he would occasionally pop up on Channel 9's Million Dollar Movie or whenever the Mets got rained out. Unfortunately, Chandler's movies were unremarkable and predictable affairs. If it sucked, he was in it: turgid romances, drab military dramas, sword and sandal epics, crappity-crap horse operas. If Warhol ever sat through a Jeff Chandler epic then maybe his eight hour Empire State Building movie might have seemed unnecessary.For a blank sheet of paper, Chandler surprisingly shared the screen with a litany of leading lady goddesses of the 1950s: Kim Novak, Liz Taylor, Carol Lynley, Susan Hayward, Lana Turner, Julie London, Joan Crawford, Jane Russell, Dorothy Malone, and Anne Baxter were among the lucky gals who kissed up on ol' Jeff. At one point he was romantically linked with M-G-M swimming star Esther Williams until the day she allegedly caught him in a dress. In her 1999 autobiography Williams recalled telling him at the time "Jeff, you're too big for polka dots."In or out of polka dots, Chandler was well-liked and he swung with the swingingest chums that Hollywood had to offer. When good pal Sammy Davis, Jr. lost his left eyeball after a horrific car wreck on Route 66, Chandler famously offered him one of his own. (A few years later Sammy served as a pallbearer at Chandler’s funeral.) Jeff's generous offer, along with constant noodging from Eddie Cantor and Tony Curtis are likely responsible for Sammy turning to the Jewish faith.Chandler had a singing career as well--who didn’t back then? He released a few tuneless LPs and in 1955 opened at The Riviera in Vegas to celebrity-studded crowds and tepid reviews. Comedienne/singer Rose Marie was at the opening and remarked "Jeff Chandler was a great guy, but he was no singer… he came with a conductor, a piano player, light man, press agent and manager. None of it helped."On the set of his last film Merrill's Marauders (1961), Chandler herniated his spinal disc while playing baseball with U.S. Army soldiers who served as extras in [...]