Well, after a long lay off, I’m back. This is just Confessions of a Mad Record Collector with a pithier title - being a more honest reflection of my massive ego and the fact that I discuss both records and cds. There’s no theme to this week’s entries - just a lot of good stuff I’ve been listening to lately.
Various Artists - Goofy Greats (K-Tel, ?)
No, I didn’t just find this; I’ve owned it for quite awhile now. I just dug it out because I love it so much. I was first given this set in Grade Three or Four and I can’t imagine why. It’s possible I asked for it - it was “Advertised on TV” after all! As a collection of novelty songs, it actually holds up amazingly well and it never fails to amaze me how much this collection has informed my musical sensibilities. It has garage rock: the Standells’ “Dirty Water” and the Trashmen with “Surfin’ Bird”; bubblegum: the Ohio Express’s “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy” and the 1910 Fruitgum Co.’s “1-2-3 Redlight”; early seventies Euro-pop with the George Baker Selection’s odd “Little Green Bag”; and just plain weirdness like the Fendermen’s absolutely insane “Mule Skinner Blues”. There’s not even a nostalgia factor to this music, as I was too young to have ever heard it on the radio - to me it stands as strong as the day it was recorded. I often wonder who programmed the K-Tel collections; they’re always well put together. I’m sure anyone reading this who loves music has, if not Goofy Greats, at least a couple of K-Tel records in their collection. Speaking of bubblegum...
1910 Fruitgum Co. - 1,2,3 Red Light (Buddah, 1968)
...and I was. In the late ‘60’s, possibly as a reaction to rock’s burgeoning heaviosity, a newer, simpler pop style became all the rage with everyone’s younger sisters. Bands like The Ohio Express, The Lemon Pipers and the 1910 Fruitgum Co. filled the airwaves with their insistent tunes and artless lyrics, often based in children’s games or evocations of candy - two things very much in the hearts of pre-teens. Of course, in most cases, there was no actual group - just a conglomeration of studio musicians and singers hired to knock out these songs, written like Brill Building songs in the early sixties. But to describe something as artless doesn’t mean it’s not art. I wonder if there will be listeners for today’s manufactured pop - those who didn’t grow up with it and have no nostalgic memories of it. To me, the new pop is too busy; with the layers and layers of beats and synths and everything else all polished to a glossy sheen - just like the singers - and the lyrics are far too cynical and over-sexed to have any sentimental appeal to the jaded music listener of the future. Besides containing the instant classic “1,2,3 Red Light”, the band does a hip cover of Dylan’s “The Mighty Quinn” as well as a great song called “The Song Song”, which succeeds in mentioning all the hit songs of 1968. Also worth a listen is “Shirley Applegate” - a love song from a ten-year old to an eight-year old.
Bob Dylan - Shot of Love (Columbia, 1981)
Well, I just can’t seem to not link these albums together. Speaking of “The Mighty Quinn”, here’s the Mighty Bob with the last album of his “high and mighty, yeah, I’m talking to you, you sinners” Christian trilogy, which comprises Slow Train Coming, Saved and this album. Despite the overt - or should I say, over the top - Christianity that informs these albums, I like them all just fine. It’s strange: you read all these negative things about Dylan’s later albums and then when you actually hear them, you enjoy them completely and wonder what the hell these carpers were listening to. Perhaps that’s the problem with being such a thoroughly bootlegged artist like Bob Dylan. No one is reviewing what is, only what could have been. Stand out tracks: “Shot of Love”, “Heart of Mine”, “Property of Jesus”, “Lenny Bruce”, “Dead Man, Dead Man” and the epically great “Every Grain of Sand”, which is as close as the hardline Dylan ever came to ecumenicism.
The Bells - Studio A (Polydor, 1972)
This is a Canadian group based in Toronto, I assume, like ninety-nine per cent of the groups that got recording contracts in Canada in the early seventies. They’re a country-folky-hokey act with most of the songs played somewhat dolorously until the final knees-up: “Whole Lotta Shakin Goin’ On”. All of the songs are covers, which probably explains why I’d never heard of the group before coming across this record. They do a cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Me and My Arrow” - that’s what caught my eye - but it’s played so langourously that its woozy charm is lost. There’s a nice medley of Gordon Lightfoot songs (“Did She Mention My Name”, If You Could Read My Mind” and “Cotton Jenny”) and Lennon’s “Oh,My Love. It’s not a terrible record, just not a terribly original record. What blows my mind is the cover. A picture of what looks like a church or a church hall stripped of its seating with the band’s footwear laying on a parquet floor. The cover elaborately opens like two little doors, revealing the band sitting on the same floor (and, yes, they have their shoes back on). Such excess for a bunch of nobodies!
Badfinger - Badfinger (Warner Bros., 1974)
Here’s a band whose story will make you weep: signed by the Beatles to Apple Records; renamed by Paul McCartney; first hit “Come And Get It” written for the band by Paul McCartney; a top ten hit on both sides of the Atlantic with “No Matter What” (Def Leppard have done an execrable cover of it recently), and all to no avail. They couldn’t seem to capitalise on their hits or the hits others had with their songs (Nilsson had a huge hit with “Without You”). They were badly mismanaged - a drunken stork could have done a better job, quite frankly, and there may have been some financial hanky-panky. Finally, after years of money trouble and rock’n’roll-related health problems, key songwriter Pete Ham hung himself, only to be followed a few years later by the other main songwriter Tom Evans (same problems; same method). Whoo! Rock and roll!
This album, their first for Warners after the halcyon Apple days, is better than snobby, big-assed music critics give it credit for. This is the band the word “beatlesque” was invented for so there’s lots of wonderful power pop plus Joey Molland’s harder rocking songs, which are really good too (especially “Andy Norris”). There’s also a weird funky song by Pete Ham disturbingly entitled “Matted Hamm”
Crikey! This band played on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, Lennon’s Imagine and Ringo’s super “It Don’t Come Easy”. Woulda, shoulda, coulda!
I just finished reading Howard Soune’s excellent biography of Bob Dylan “Down the Highway”, so next I check in, this’ll probably be pretty Dylan-heavy. Catch you on the B-side!