50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 6

Issue #6 had a cover date of February 24, 1968. 24 pages. 25 cents. It contained a five-page spread called “It Happened in 1967” wherein Wenner was already mythologizing the year his magazine would spend the next 50 years celebrating. It was presented as an annual news wrap-up/mock election/awards presentation. The “awards” given out:

• Southern Comfort Award: Janis Joplin
• Turn, Turn, Turn Award: The Byrds
• Great Moment Award: The Gathering of the Tribes
• Newcomer of the Year Award: The Doors
• Memories Are Made of This Award: Jim Morrison
• Truth in Advertising Award: Not Donovan
• Rock and Roll Group of the Year Award: The Who
• Crystal Set Award: Program Director Tom Donahue
• Big Things Comes in Little Packages Award: Cream
• Doing the Thing Award: Country Joe and the Fish
• Buy Now Pay Later Medal: Bob Dylan
• The Rolling Stone Rolling Stone Award: The Rolling Stones
• Up Creeque Alley without a Paddle Award: The Mamas and the Papas
• Jefferson Airplane Award: The Jefferson Airplane
• Livin’ Is Easy Award: The Grateful Dead
• The Woman of the Year Award: Aretha Franklin
• Double Barrel Shotgun Award: Michael Bloomfield
• Scene for a Season Award: San Francisco
• Great Moments Award (#2): Monterey International Pop Festival
• Great Balls of Fire Award: Jimi Hendrix
• The 1967 Soul Award: Otis Redding
• Plus, unawarded items about the Lovin’ Spoonful, dope busts, the Beatles, Eric Burdon, Motown, Stevie Winwood, and movies.

It’s pretty obvious that Wenner’s idea of the rock and roll canon was already established. For the next 50 years nothing could possibly compare to the greatness of 1967. Wenner would soon grow cynical about music, preferring to put celebrities on the cover over artists. But for the time being, he was still earnest and idealistic. And that’s what makes these early issues of the Stone so fascinating. It’s a snapshot of the moment in time when Rolling Stone was an underground newspaper, fighting against the mainstream…before it eventually became the mainstream.

Like the majority of people do, Wenner stopped giving a shit about new music after his early twenties; unlike the majority of people, Wenner created a platform with which he could celebrate his favorite era for the next 50 years and convince future generations that the music of their youth was not as important or meaningful as the music of his youth.

Continue reading 50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 6

New Oak Ridge Boys video: Pray To Jesus

Video: The Oak Ridge Boys – “Pray To Jesus”

The Oak Ridge Boys – “Pray To Jesus” (Official Video)

From 17th Avenue Revival, out March 16 on Lightning Rod Records.

We live in trailers and apartments too
From California to Kalamazoo

My first concert was the Oak Ridge Boys at the Ionia Free Fair during the summer of “Elvira.” I don’t remember much about the show except that the guy who looked like Grizzly Adams was wearing overalls with no shirt and his armpit hair went down to his waist. Now, I’m pretty sure that isn’t accurate or even anatomically possible, but it’s burned into my memory so deeply that it’s all I can picture whenever I think of the Oak Ridge Boys.

My only other memory of that day was that there was an old cop car, and for five bucks you could whack it with a sledgehammer. This too seems extremely improbable in retrospect, but all I can say is that 1981 was still the seventies at the Ionia Free Fair.

And now the Oak Ridge Boys are back with a scootin’ cover of a Brandy Clark jam. Any song that namedrops Kalamazoo in the first verse is okay by me.

Giddy up.

Oak Ridge Boys: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

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New L7 video: I Came Back To Bitch

Video: L7 – “I Came Back To Bitch”

L7 – I Came Back To Bitch (Official Video)

Single out now on Don Giovanni.

L7 is back! I had the chance to see them back in college when they played Club Soda in Kalamazoo, but for some reason I didn’t go. It was a Tuesday night and I wasn’t really familiar with their music, but I knew they were important. My pal who turned me on to Paul’s Boutique and suede Pumas told me about it so I should’ve gone. About six months later they released Bricks Are Heavy and had a college radio smash hit with “Pretend You’re Dead” and I realized my mistake. Live and learn.

And now they’re back. Donita Sparks told Rolling Stone the new song is “about greedy fucks throwing the word ‘rock star’ around because someone made a huge profit on somebody else’s back… Do not degrade the word ‘rock star.’ That’s what I find grotesque – because creative people, caregivers, civil servants – those are the people who are contributing to society… Capitalist motherfuckers are just making money off of polluting things and ruining neighborhoods. Everything is going to shit.”

Sock it to the man!

L7: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New L7 video: I Came Back To Bitch

New King Tuff video: Psycho Star

Video: King Tuff – “Psycho Star”

King Tuff – Psycho Star [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

From The Other, out April 13 on Sub Pop.

A wise man once said, “We could all die any day, but before I let that happen I’ll dance my life away.” There’s a similar sentiment undercutting King Tuff’s new song. The world is doomed, so we might as well get down.

Chaos and confusion
Maybe that is really all we are
The universe is probably an illusion
But isn’t it so beautifully bizarre?

I guess it is.

King Tuff: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New King Tuff video: Psycho Star

New Mavis Staples video: If All I Was Was Black

Video: Mavis Staples – “If All I Was Was Black”

Mavis Staples – "If All I Was Was Black"

From If All I Was Was Black, out now on Anti.

Mavis Staples is 78 years old and she’s been singing professionally for 70 of those. Thank about that. She’s been getting paid to sing since before most Baby Boomers were even born. She’s a national treasure. This is the title track to her third album produced by Jeff Tweedy.

Director Zac Manuel told Rolling Stone, “The intent of this video is to highlight black excellence, and to provoke and encourage a larger public appreciation of the labor – physical and emotional – the people of color often are expected to bear. Using the symbolism of the ‘monument,’ a contemporary point of debate, I hope to steer conversation toward the acknowledgment of actual greatness; by replacing a negative and reinforcing a positive, this video will alter the image of who we often see immortalized in our country’s history.”

If it was up to me, I’d just replace every statue in America, confederate or otherwise, with a statue of Mavis Staples. Oh, mercy.

Mavis Staples: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Titus Andronicus video: Above the Bodega (Local Business)

Video: Titus Andronicus – “Above the Bodega (Local Business)”


From A Productive Cough, out March 2 on Merge.

I can keep a secret from my mama, I can keep a secret from my pa
I keep myself out of trouble, stay one step ahead of the law
And I can keep it from my neighbors – it ain’t like they even care
But I can’t keep a secret from the guy at the store downstairs

Sounds like Titus Andronicus might be making their Exile on Main Street, with all the horns, soulful background vocals, and lowdown lyrics.

Patrick Stickles says, “The first floor of the apartment building in which I live is occupied by a deli-grocery, to which I give my patronage several times a day. As a result, I have developed a particular understanding with the staff there which I have not so far heard articulated in song. Thusly, I took it upon myself to write the ‘ultimate’ song explicating the bodega clerk-patron relationship. More and more, we are defined by the things which we consume, and those who facilitate that consumption may glimpse a more truthful view of ourselves than the carefully curated image we share with our loved ones. No one knows the depths of my vice better than they who oversee the transactions which make it possible—in this way, the deli clerk knows me better than my own mother.”

Shoop shoop sha la la!

Titus Andronicus: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Playlist: History of British Rock (Sire Records, 1976)

I had this cassette in high school. I can’t remember exactly where or why I bought it, but my guess is that it probably came from the Columbia House tape club. Or maybe I bought it at the mall because it had a rare Beatles song on it.

It’s a weird compilation. Released by Sire Records in 1976, it’s not arranged chronologically but it spans from the first single by a British group to reach the American Top 20 (“Silver Threads and Golden Needles” by the Springfields, 1962) through Beatlemania and psychedelia all the way to 1971’s earthy noodlefest, “Layla.”

There’s nothing by the Rolling Stones, the Who, Herman’s Hermits, Hollies, Small Faces, Zombies, Them, Moody Blues, Pretty Things, Spencer Davis Group, or the Yardbirds, and the Beatles song is a goofy throwaway recorded in Hamburg before they had a record deal. Some of the songs never even charted on this side of the pond at all (“Black Magic Woman” by Fleetwood Mac, “Massachusetts” by the Bee Gees). So it’s just a strange listen. But it was my introduction to most of these songs, and to be honest, I haven’t heard many of them since I left home for college.

This comp is a distillation of the four-volume Sire Records series of historical releases issued between 1974 and 1975: History Of British Rock, Vols 1-3 plus Roots of British Rock. Seymour Stein created an ambitious program of double LP packages chronicling rock music’s history. Each original volume contained 28 songs with lots of cool photos and liner notes by Greg Shaw. So my tape was clearly a cheapo knockoff of the original set with no photos or notes. And Sire kept the crappy version in print. Weird!

It’s hard to imagine now, but at the time most of these recordings were otherwise out of print and generally unavailable to the public. Stein told Billboard in 1975: “It is our feeling that rock does need to be available in some sort of historical context for today’s market.” He noticed that jazz and blues “have virtually everything ever recorded available on some sort of collection” and he wanted to do the same for rock and roll.

His plan didn’t last very long. Within a couple years Sire refocused on new music like the Ramones and Talking Heads. This type of historical release would be taken over — and perfected — by Rhino Records.

In fact, shortly after I rescued this tape from the budget bin, Rhino started releasing its nine-disc collection, The British Invasion: The History of British Rock, which seems to have been inspired by the Sire series, by then out of print. The Rhino box was compiled by Harold Bronson and contained 180 British songs that charted in the States. That’s a cool project and all, but my dumb tape was enough for me.

So I recreated it for you to stream…

Continue reading Playlist: History of British Rock (Sire Records, 1976)

New Frankie Cosmos video: Being Alive

Video: Frankie Cosmos – “Being Alive”

Frankie Cosmos – Being Alive [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

From Vessel, out March 30 on Sub Pop.

I’m an idiot. For several years I’ve ignored Frankie Cosmos because I got her mixed up with some other Frankie that I don’t care for. I never gave her music a chance because I was convinced I wasn’t into it. But I was totally wrong. This is exactly the kind of music I love. Unfussy vocals, frantic drumming, clever lyrics. It’s got that slacker style that masks how much work it really takes to do it yourself.

Being alive matters quite a bit
Even when you feel like shit

Sounds simple, but it’s true.

Frankie Cosmos: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New They Might Be Giants video: The Greatest

Video: They Might Be Giants – “The Greatest”

They Might Be Giants – "The Greatest" (Official Video)

From I Like Fun, out now on Idlewild Recordings.

They call me the greatest
Because I’m not very good
And they’re being sarcastic

It’s wild to think that these guys have been around for over 30 years. And even now, there are not a lot of bands making this kind of “high geek” music. Sufjan Stevens came closest during his Illinois era, I guess. But it’s impossible for me to hear TMBG without flashing back to being a know-it-all nineteen year old, drunk on my own egocentrism (and Bacardi). Those were heady days, stumbling around college campuses, soaking up influences and experiences like a sponge, but still absolutely convinced I already knew more about everything than anybody. They Might Be Giants made you feel like you were part of a society of intellectuals, passing around tapes of Lincoln and Flood like a secret handshake, unlocking clues in the lyrics. “It’s from the point of view of a nightlight…get it?”

Fast forward to now, and John Flansburgh and John Linnel are still at it. Still doing the Dial-a-Song thing (844-387-6962), and still writing and recording quirky songs that don’t sound like anybody else. Nick Offerman is perfect in the video as the narrator, slowly getting tortured via voodoo. His faux gravitas as he sneers “G-O-A-T” is worthy of an academy award.

They Might Be Giants: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

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New Breeders video: Joanne

Video: The Breeders – “Joanne” (Michael Nesmith cover)

The Breeders – Joanne (Filmed at Electrical Audio, Chicago)

All Nerve is out March 2 on 4AD. “Joanne” is not on the album.

“Joanne” is one of my favorite songs of all time. I first heard it back in college when Leppotone supergroup Twister covered it live at Club Soda in Kalamazoo. I was already a huge Monkees fan but had not yet discovered the solo work of Mike Nesmith. It quickly became an obsession as I gathered up as many Nez albums as I could find in the used record bins.

Just recently, Nesmith reformed his “First National Band” and played some shows in California. Nez is the only original member since pedal steel virtuoso Red Rhodes and bassist John London are dead and drummer John Ware was not interested. But it’s still awesome that Nesmith is back into playing the style of country rock that he helped create years before Glenn Frey ever met Don Henley. (Just listen to “Papa Gene’s Blues,” which Nez wrote and produced for the first Monkees album in 1966.)

Anyway, Kim Deal does a fine acoustic cover, recorded — and apparently filmed — by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in Chicago. And while “Joanne” is not included on the upcoming Breeders album, it does appear as the b-side of the “Wait in the Car” single that is included in the vinyl bundle from 4AD.

The Breeders: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Breeders video: Joanne

Rock and roll can change your life.