Detroit, Detroit

“It’s carbon and monoxide
The ole Detroit perfume”
—Paul Simon

It so happens that on May 21, 1955, 67 years before this is being written, Chuck Berry recorded “Maybellene” at Chess Studios. Willie Dixon played bass. Among the songs that Dixon wrote that you probably know from covers are:

• “I Ain’t Superstitious”
• “You Shook Me”
• “Back Door Man”
• “I Can’t Quit You Baby”
• “Hoochie Coochie Man”
• “Little Red Rooster”
• “I Just Want to Make Love to You”

Just think of the importance of those songs for many bands. Odds are Dixon, no matter how much he may have thought of them, couldn’t have imagined that impact.

“Maybellene” was based on “Ida Red,” a song released by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys in 1939, a song that is considered to be of “unknown origin,” just as the character Ida Red is unknown.

Fiddlin’ Powers & Family released a recording of the song in 1924 and Dykes Magic City Trio did in 1927, which I point out only because they don’t name groups like they used to.

Back to “Maybellene.”

During the early ‘50s Berry, who was living in St. Louis at the time, worked at two car assembly plants. Back then there were St. Louis Truck Assembly, which was operated by General Motors, and St. Louis Assembly, run by Ford.

Although the song is ostensibly about the protagonist chasing a girl who had cheated on him (“Oh Maybellene, why can’t you be true?”), it is primarily about a race between vehicles: “I saw Maybellene in a Coupe DeVille/A Cadillac a-rollin’ on the open road/Nothin’ will outrun my V8 Ford.”

Detroit Iron vs. Detroit Iron.

Continue reading Detroit, Detroit

New Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers video: Girl Sports

Video: Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers – “Girl Sports”

Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers - Girl Sports [Official Music Video]

Directed by The AV Club. From the Pretty Good For A Girl Band EP, out now on Domestic La La.

Most of the time when I see a silly band name I just roll my eyes and keep scrolling. But every once in a while a silly band name will make me chuckle and click through. In the case of Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers I’m glad I did. This is great!

Maybe you should try sticking to girl sports
Some men will like it better if you didn’t talk
Don’t get me wrong you’re pretty good for a girl band
It’s kind of complicated, you wouldn’t understand.

They’re Australian so the first half of their band name rhymes with the second half when you say it like you’re in an Outback Steakhouse commercial. Chaze froys plaze!

Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers: bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Via punknews.

New Wilco video: Tired of Taking It Out On You

Video: Wilco – “Tired of Taking It Out On You”

"Tired of Taking It Out On You" by Wilco | Cruel Country

From Cruel Country, out May 27 on dBpm.

Again, not country. But that’s okay. It’s another well-crafted Wilco song.

I crave crazy times again
Our nights, our nights
Would never end.

I appreciate skronk and noize as much as the next guy, I suppose, but my favorite Wilco has always been the pretty stuff. I like to see what a band can do within the confines of a traditional pop song structure. Every once in a while a band can do something interesting with a 12-minute jam or an extended freakout — “Cowgirl in the Sand” and “Sister Ray” come to mind — but most of the time it just comes off as wanky or lazy. I prefer songwriters to get to the point. Work harder on your craft and refine it into something good. Edit.

I get that bands like to “stretch out” or whatever and that’s fine. Do what you like. But I’m happy that Wilco is promising to release a whole (double!) album full of what appears to be acoustic pop songs. That’s my jam. If this is what Tweedy thinks of as “country” that’s fine. Tomato, tomahto.

New Naomi Alligator video: Blue For You

Video: Naomi Alligator – “Blue For You”

Naomi Alligator - "Blue For You" (Official Music Video)

From Double Knot, out July 1, 2022 on Carpark.

I love this song although the video makes me mad. Our adorable hero is treated like garbage by her dirtbag boyfriend. Why’s he gotta be so mean?

Sam he doesn’t like me so much
Says I’m just okay
He doesn’t actually know what I’m like
He just knows my face.

Naomi Alligator, the nom de guerre of Virginia songwriter Corrinne James, impressed us last year with the Concession Stand Girl EP. She began writing her new album while living in Philadelphia during the height of the pandemic and the deterioration of a long-term relationship. She’s since moved to California.

Naomi Alligator: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

FIFTY

Obligatory Autobiographical Opening

When my friends and I were in high school we took a summer pilgrimage to a campground in northern Michigan, and if a pilgrimage requires a religious angle, then it was to celebrate Bacchus, assuming that he happened to drink copious quantities of Stroh’s.

None of us were in the least bit interested in camping. We had no skills. To build a campfire we had to rely on Coleman stove fuel, which got things going rather quickly and also served as an entertainment when it was splashed on an already raging fire, as there would be an eye-opening exothermic event. The days in the campground consisted of (1) drinking beer in the afternoon, long into the night; (2) passing out in our not-well-setup tents; (3) getting up the next day and going to the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, where the sun, we hoped, would help sweat the alcohol out of our bodies; (4) bathing in ice-cold Lake Michigan; (5) repeat.

The summer of 1972 most of us were 18. Earlier that year the Michigan legislature had done us a tremendous favor by changing the drinking age in the state to 18. That meant we didn’t have to accumulate as much beer as we could while we were back in Detroit from people that would “buy” for us (in retrospect it seems an odd thing: we would simply say to someone who was older but who had a fake ID, “Will you buy for us?” and it went without elaboration what we meant) so as to be well stocked for our adventure. One of the downsides of this was that our trunks tended to be so full of beer that the camping gear barely fit.

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Old Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood video: Some Velvet Morning

Video: Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood – “Some Velvet Morning”

Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood - Some Velvet Morning (Official Music Video)

From Nancy & Lee, reissue out May 20 on Light in the Attic.

This is great. Light in the Attic is reissuing Nancy & Lee on vinyl, cassette, eight-track, and compact disc with remastered audio from the original analog tapes, unseen photos from Nancy Sinatra’s personal archive, and two bonus tracks from the album sessions. They’ve also released this amazing promotional video.

“Some Velvet Morning” is a classic of whatever you’d call this genre…orchestral psychedelic countrypolitan pop? Whatever it is, I love it. My favorite Nancy and Lee duet is “Summer Wine” though. Which is even steamier than this one. Check out their 1967 performance of it on the Ed Sullivan Show below…

Nancy Sinatra: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading Old Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood video: Some Velvet Morning

Paul Siebel, Dead at 84

One day in the mid-90s I found myself sitting at the bar at Kraftbrau, a newly opened brewery located across the street from Bell’s in Kalamazoo. I probably got there early because a friend’s band was playing later, or something. Who knows? Kraftbrau specialized in lagers while most micros at the time were still making ales (which don’t require refrigeration during fermentation).

There weren’t many other patrons there, but the bartender was friendly. I asked him about the music that was playing. It sounded a bit like Nashville Skyline or Mike Nesmith’s First National Band. Lots of great pedal steel and conversational lyrics that you could tell were good stories even without listening too closely.

Turns out it was a guy named Paul Siebel. The bartender told me the album was called Woodsmoke and Oranges and it was something of a lost classic. I was pretty full of myself in my twenties and it was humbling to realize I’d never even heard of this guy even though he was making the exact kind of music that I loved. Siebel was a mysterious figure who had made two albums and then just disappeared.

When I got back home I ran out to Vinyl Solution and asked Herm if they had Woodsmoke and Oranges in stock. It was out of print. But there was a new compilation called Paul Siebel (Philo/Rounder, 1995), so I bought that. It ended up containing the entirety of Woodsmoke and Oranges (in order) plus half the songs from the follow-up, Jack-Knife Gypsy, tacked on to the end. Score!

Continue reading Paul Siebel, Dead at 84

New Joan Shelley video: Amberlit Morning (ft. Bill Callahan)

Video: Joan Shelley – “Amberlit Morning” (ft. Bill Callahan)

Joan Shelley (feat. Bill Callahan) "Amberlit Morning" [Official Video]

Directed by Cyrus Moussavi & Brittany Nugent. From The Spur, out June 24 on No Quarter.

These two sound like they were destined to sing together.

Shelley says, “As I wrote this song, I watched it take on this theme of beauty and impermanence. I imagined making it a duet that would feel like a conversation between two constellations. I wanted to be sung a mythical bedtime story, one that Bill Callahan might write. So I asked him to write and sing it with me.”

Callahan says, “Joan’s guitar riff instantly sucked me into the world of the song. A world that was ongoing and ending and going on again. She wanted a little help fleshing it out, or just having someone else’s perspective on what she was looking at. I threw in some lines that she called mythical. I tend to see in myths, in dreams. I may have added a chord change, possibly at her request — the beautiful thing about the song for me is that it’s kind of covered its tracks in the snow so now I can’t remember entirely what I added or changed. Maybe that guitar riff is someone covering their tracks in the snow. I can just appreciate the mystery of the thing as a whole. Joan claims the high voice at the end is mine, the high voice covering the tracks of the low. I don’t know if I believe her.”

Who knows? Probably doesn’t matter who did what. It’s a beautiful song.

Joan Shelley: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Belle and Sebastian video: Talk to Me, Talk to Me

Video: Belle and Sebastian – “Talk to Me, Talk to Me”

Belle and Sebastian - "Talk to Me, Talk to Me" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Freya and Rosalie Salkeld. From A Bit of Previous, out now on Matador.

This is pretty great. When Belle and Sebastian ran out of time to make their own video they invited folks to pitch them ideas. A pair of 15-year-old south London siblings got the deal.

Stuart Murdoch says, “We put out an open call to filmmakers who would be interested in making something for the existing budget, requesting an image encapsulating their idea and a 100-word pitch. The directors’ mother got in touch saying her daughters are fans of the group and keen filmmakers, and they sent in a treatment that we loved. They co-wrote and co-directed it, and got a bunch of their friends involved, and made a fresh and funny take on the song.”

I’ve got a new perspective
The glass in my hand, it ain’t exactly full
The place at my table is an empty stool
Talk to me, talk to me.

Directors Freya and Rosalie say, “When we found out we were going to make Belle and Sebastian’s new music video we were beyond excited. Our idea had come from photos we’d taken of our friends for art projects. Casting mates we’d recently seen in a school drama production was really fun – filming them was even better! The process as a whole was an amazing challenge and we’re so grateful for the opportunity!”

How cool is that?

Also, the song features a ripping guitar solo!

Belle and Sebastian: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

That’s Entertainment?

Ed Sullivan was something of a phenomenon of the 20th century.

He started his career working at a newspaper in 1919. By 1929 he became a Broadway columnist, which had him then focusing on the entertainment industry. One thing led to another, and in 1948 Sullivan hosted a CBS TV show, “The Toast of the Town,” which was renamed in 1955 “The Ed Sullivan Show.” It ran every Sunday night live from 8 to 9 pm Eastern until 1971.

It was a variety show, the likes of which no longer exist. That is, it featured comedians, jugglers, magicians, torch singers, popular musicians, and even a bizarre talking fist. The show, shot live, was performed in Studio 50*. It was later renamed the “Ed Sullivan Theater,” with the advent of David Letterman’s show. Although the late Letterman show—like Kimmel’s or Fallon’s of current—had something of the variety to it, Sullivan’s was different, in that he simply introduced the performers and they did their acts, whether it was singing a song that was quite fresh on the charts or twirling plates on a stick. He wasn’t the show. The performers who were booked were.

Given its time slot, the show was meant to be family entertainment, not something that wasn’t meant to be viewed until the children were well in bed.

One of the things that “The Ed Sullivan Show” did that no longer occurs was the exposure of new and breaking acts to literally millions of people. Arguably that exposure led to an increase in record sales and bookings for the performers, especially musicians. Certainly a good thing. (Something that would be useful now, as there have been so many acts who could use post-lockdown exposure.)

There was a wide array of people who performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” including B.B. King, The Animals, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Buddy Holly & the Crickets, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, and many more. Realize that it was an hour-long weekly show so it needed acts.

Continue reading That’s Entertainment?

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