Thursday, March 22, 2018

I Feel Good I Feel Bad

On March 22 1978 NBC aired "All You Need Is Cash", a Beatles parody that is one of the first, finest and funniest mockumentaries ever made. Naturally nobody watched. It was the least watched program of the entire week. Monty Python's Eric Idle and Bonzo Dog Band's Neil Innes were the masterminds behind the project which gently spoofs their friends. George Harrison helped produce Monty Python movies and Paul McCartney produced the Bonzo's UK#5 hit "I'm the Urban Spaceman" and featured the band performing "Death Cab for Cutie"  in Magical Mystery Tour.

The film is fun but the I've gotten the most pleasure from the soundtrack featuring Innes's Beatlesque tunes. The songs so closely parodied the original source material that Innes was taken to court by the owners of The Beatles' catalogue. Innes had to testify under oath that he had not listened to the songs at all while composing The Rutles' songs, but had created them completely originally based on what he remembered various songs by The Beatles sounding like at different times. 

Innes recorded the songs with ex Flames and Beach Boy Ricky Fataar, Ollie Halsall (who sang the Paul McCartney inspired tunes that Eric Idle mimed , John Halseyn( who played the Ringo inspired Barry Wom)  and Andy Brown. 

I would often play the Rutles on my college radio show, favoring  Rutle Soul era songs like "I Must Be In Love", "With a Girl Like You",  "Ouch" and "Between Us".

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Them Lonesome Boxcars

In the Spring of 1978 Joe Ely released the critically acclaimed Honky Tonk Masquerade, his second album for MCA. Robert Christgau gave the album a A rating, writing "there hasn't been anything like this since Gram Parsons was around to make Grievous Angel, or do I mean Gilded Palace of Sin?" 

Today, as one of the founders of The Flatlanders with Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, Ely is recognized as one of the godfathers of alt country, but in the late 70's he never achieved more than a cult following, even after The Clash invited him on their US tour. 

Born in Buddy Holly's hometown, Ely's music reflected his West Texas heritage. You'll hear country, rock, some Louisiana accordion and Mexican horns, all recorded with care in a Nashville studio by Chip Young. The result is a timeless album.

Although it didn't achieve much commercial success, Honky Tonk Masquerade made 1001 You Must Hear Before You Die, suggesting Ely "proved too individual for country radio and too country for rock radio.".

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Puzzle in a Million Pieces

In March of 1978 Fotomaker, a power pop super group made of former Raspberries and Rascals, released the single, "Where Have You Been All My Life", a minor US #87 hit. Despite the solid tunes, the album is best known for its cover, featuring an underage girl in makeup.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Your Kisses They Burn

In March 1978 rockabilly revivalist Robert Gordon released Fresh Fish Special, his second album with the legendary guitarist Link Wray. Named after Elvis' haircut in Jailhouse Rock, the album was recorded with The King's backing vocalists, The  Jordanaires, performing on five numbers. 

Better than the debut, Fresh Fish Special has a similar combination of originals and covers ( including The Johnny Burnette Trio's "Lonesome Train", Gene Vincent's "Five Days, Five Days" and Elvis' "I Want To Be Free", a lesser known song from the Jailhouse Rock soundtrack.).

 The album is best known for Bruce Springsteen's "Fire" which was written especially for Gordon. This is the version that should have been a hit, but The Pointer Sisters beat Gordon to it, hitting US#2 in 1979.  Gordon and Wray toured with Blondie before amicably parting ways in the Summer of 78.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Two To Tumble

On March 17, 1978 Elvis Costello released his second album, This Year's Model. It would be selected as the best album of the year by the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critics Poll, topping releases by Nick Lowe, The Rolling Stones, Talking Heads and the Clash.

To these ears, This Year's Model is a dramatic departure from the straight ahead pub rock of My Aim Is True. And I'm frankly surprised that Costello doesn't share songwriting credit with the musicians who helped him invent this sound, The Attractions. Listen to Steve Nieve's keyboards  on "The Beat", Bruce Thomas's bass on "Pump It Up" and Pete Thomas's drums on "Lipstick Vogue".  Could Costello have really brought this much life to songs with a guitar and a cassette player?

This is a tight, punchy band who brought road tested into London's Eden Studios where they bashed out the album in eleven days. Costello is snarling. His lyrics are bitter takes on romantic angst. If you had to pick one Elvis Costello album to own, this would be it.

A few other takes.

Robert Christgau :

Anyone who thinks it's uninfluenced ( by punk)  should compare the bite and drive of the backup here to the well-played studio pub-rock of his debut and ask themselves how come he now sounds as angry as he says he feels. I find his snarl more attractively musically and verbally than all his melodic and lyrical tricks, and while I still wish he liked girls more, at least I'm ready to believe he's had some bad luck.

From Rolling Stone:

This Year's Model is the most "punk" of Costello's records -- not in any I-hate-the-cops sense but in his emotionally explosive writing ("No Action," "Lipstick Vogue," "Pump It Up") and the Attractions' vicious gallop (particularly the psycho-circus organ playing of Steve Nieve). Many of the songs rattle with sexual paranoia, but the broadside against vanilla-pop broadcasting, "Radio, Radio" (a U.K. single added to the original U.S. vinyl LP), better reflects the general, righteous indignation of the album: Costello vs. the world. And Costello wins.

From  Paul Stokes's 1001Albums You Must Hear Before You Die:

Uncompromising and vicious, This Year's Model is no meaningless rant. It cuts deeply, and tellingly, straight to the bone. Revenge and guilt might scare off other songwriters, but among the anger and disgust Costello finds his truth.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Wasn't It Fabulous

On March 17, 1978 punk rock's most unabashedly commercial band, Generation X, led by the peroxide bleached Billy Idol released their debut album. The cover shot is by Gered Mankowitz, who was also responsible for The Rolling Stones's Between The Buttons. Here was a punk band that actually admitted they loved The Beatles and The Stones.

Outside of the U.K. #47 single, "Ready Steady Go", and the six minute Bob "Derwood" Andrews guitar raver, "Youth Youth Youth", that closes the album I'm not hearing how this record wound up on the Village Voice's Pazz and Jop Critics Poll that year ( albeit at #29 out of 30 ). 

One more Generation X album would follow before Idol released an EP that predicted a solo career was next. It's title: Dancing With Myself. 

Robert Christgau gave the album a B+ grade, writing:

This band's notorious commitment to pop is evident mostly in surprising harmonies and song structures--musically, they're not trying to be cute. And although as singles "Your Generation," "Ready Steady Go," and "Wild Youth" never knocked my socks off, they're the nucleus of a tough, consistent, inventive album. Who said punk rock was dead?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Deal to Disappear

From 1978, some ridiculously catchy power pop from Jules and the Polar Bears whose debut album on Columbia, Got No Breeding, was a critical fave. "Jules" is the prolific songwriter Jules Shear ( Cyndi Lauper's "All Through the Night", The Bangles's "If She Knew What She Wants")  who would be romantically involved with Aimee Mann and from 1989 to 1991 host MTV's Unplugged series.