Sunday, August 26, 2007

Box Sets Suck 6: Phil Spector: Back To Mono (1958-1969) (Abkco 1991)

This one was extremely easy to construct. Basically, most of disc one and very little of the awful discs two and three. In short, it apes the vinyl era standard of Phil Spector's Greatest Hits from 1977 with Phil as parade balloon on the cover (not to be confused with Phil Spector's 20 Greatest Hits from 1976 with the ice cream cone in the kisser cover).

Of course, I'm cheating as usual by excluding anything from disc four which is A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector. But as Rolling Stone will tell you, it's its own entity. And besides, what needs to happen is an elegant two-disc set that fits in the space of one with MY track listing below comprising disc one and the Xmas album on disc two leaving space for the apparent faves I rejected: "Spanish Harlem" (doesn't really count), "Under The Moon of Love," "Just Once in My Life" (never much liked The Righteous Brothers because by the time Spector got to them, he was crushing good songs under his Wall of Sound and forgetting to motorvate them with anything beyond funeral tympani), maybe "Do The Screw" or even a grotesquerie like "I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine" (which makes "River Deep - Mountain High" sound like something off of Colossal Youth).

And Christ, shit else. The man was/is obnoxious (to be nice) and his box followed suit. Not just too damn long but too damn big - a 12" vinyl-sized elephant (it's gray too) with each song lyric getting its own page in the ho-hum booklet. Plus the CDs are hard to get out of (and back into) the cheap plastic tray. I look forward to getting it out of my apartment.

Phil Spector: Back To Basics (1958-1969) (Bozelkablog 2007)

1. The Teddy Bears: " To Know Him Is to Love Him"
2. Curtis Lee: "Pretty Little Angel Eyes"
3. Gene Pitney: "Every Breath I Take"
4. The Paris Sisters: "I Love How You Love Me "
5. The Crystals: "There's No Other Like My Baby"
6. The Crystals: "Uptown"
7. The Crystals: "He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)"
8. The Crystals: "He's a Rebel"
9. Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans: "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah"
10. The Crystals: "He's Sure the Boy I Love"
11. Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans: "Why Do Lovers Break Each Others Hearts"
12. Darlene Love: "(Today I Met) The Boy I'm Gonna Marry"
13. The Crystals: "Da Doo Ron Ron"
14. Veronica: "Why Don’t They Let Us Fall in Love"
15. Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans: "Not Too Young to Get Married"
16. Darlene Love : "Wait 'Till My Bobby Gets Home"
17. The Ronettes: "Be My Baby"
18. The Crystals: "Then He Kissed Me"
19. Darlene Love: "A Fine, Fine Boy"
20. The Ronettes: "Baby, I Love You"
21. The Ronettes: "(The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up"
22. The Ronettes: "Woman In Love (With You)"
23. The Ronettes: "Walking In the Rain"
24. The Righteous Brothers: "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'"
25. The Righteous Brothers: "Unchained Melody"
26. The Righteous Brothers: "Ebb Tide"
27. Ike and Tina Turner: "River Deep - Mountain High"
28. Sonny Charles and the Checkmates: "Black Pearl"

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Box Sets Suck 5: Nuggets I (Rhino 1998)

Right, I'm missing some good, even great, ones. Right, the box is pretty damn essential overall. But wrong, crap tracks do exist. Come on - you know "The Little Black Egg" lives and dies with its lyric (as a for instance). As for those missing great cuts, I went by the "sounds better/more at home elsewhere" principle (e.g. Love, Sir Doug, Raiders, etc.). And though at first I was betraying one of my own principles by opting for historical relevance over pleasure, I soon realized both crashed into each other in such sacred texts as "Lies," "Hey Joe," "I Ain't No Miracle Worker," etc.

The Nuggets from Nuggets (Bozelkablog 1999)

1. The Electric Prunes: "I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)" - Dig those parentheses, Sixties, dig 'em!
2. The Standells: "Dirty Water" - Fug you!
3. The Knickerbockers: "Lies" - What else would you call a Beatles ripoff?
4. The Seeds: "Pushin' Too Hard" - Check out Sky Saxon & Co. here on The Mothers-In-Law with Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard. I find it gassy myself.
5. The Remains: "Don't Look Back" - Best song on the box because it adheres to the number one rule for masterful singles in a capitalist country: it must include several great songs in one.
6. The 13th Floor Elevators: "You're Gonna Miss Me" - They were indeed all heads. P.S. Turned out Tommy Hall wasn't Jandek after all.
7. Count Five: "Psychotic Reaction" - A freakout usually counts as a song within a song.
8. The Leaves: "Hey Joe" - Well, for one, Hendrix couldn't sing like his own guitar.
9. The Third Rail: "Run, Run, Run" - Bubblegum used to come in a little bag called Gold Nuggets, ya know.
10. Sagittarius: "My World Fell Down" - Pretty proto-prog psych.
11. The Nazz: "Open My Eyes" - Goddamn, this dances like a motherfucker!
12. The Music Machine: "Talk Talk" - Hello, Mud.
13. The Litter: "Action Woman" - I guess dirtbags never got laid either.
14. The Elastik Band: "Spazz" - Probably the second best song on the box. For why, see #5.
15. The Chocolate Watchband: "Sweet Young Thing" - In the dictionary next to "droogy."
16. The Brogues: "I Ain't No Miracle Worker" - They got the "wish I was a virgin" blues.
17. Kim Fowley: "The Trip" - Pebbles 3 representing (sorta).
18. Swingin' Medallions: "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)" - This gave me the idea for a movie about two closeted gay frat guys in the 1960s.
19. The Merry-Go-Round: "Live" - Belongs in the Nuggets II diaspora.
20. The Sonics: "Strychnine" - The drinking age meant nothing to these thugs.
21. The Daily Flash: "Jack of Diamonds" - Listen as a song rises from the grave and returns in less than three minutes.
22. The Groupies: "Primitive" - The exact same length as the least primitive cut here (Sagittarius).
23. The Lollipop Shoppe: "You Must Be a Witch" - If you ever wanted to know why this music is called punk, listen to how he sings "An easy life in heaven with a thousand other guys." Pure Roxy London 1977.
24. The Balloon Farm: "A Question of Temperature" - The first new wave song.
25. The Third Bardo: "I'm Five Years Ahead of My Time" - Pebbles 3 representing.
26. Clefs of Lavender Hill: "Stop - Get a Ticket" - ...for a train to Popsville.
27. The Monks: "Complication" - Live, they invented Krautrock. On record, this was their only nugget.
28. The Other Half: "Mr. Pharmacist" - Here comes the nice.
29. We the People: "You Burn Me Up and Down" - No, you do!
30. The Bees: "Voices Green and Purple" - More Pebbles 3 representing.

Total Time: 1:18:45

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bigger Than Life vs. Bigger Than Life

I totally forgot to relate this HI-larious story courtesy of a student of mine (yes, I have his blessing to tell it here).

My student was writing a paper on one of the films I screened during the course I taught in the spring. He wound up calling all over town because the easier to find titles were gone from most of the video stores. But finally he found a place on 5th St. that had Nicholas Ray's Bigger Than Life for rent. "That's odd," I thought because I assumed Vulcan Video was the only place in town that would carry such a rare title.

So he goes to this video store on 5th St. and immediately notices that there are no video/DVD boxes visible. He approaches a guy who works there and says that he called about Bigger Than Life. The guy fishes out the video and it turns out to be a gay porno. And suddenly, I know exactly where my student is. He's at Tape Lenders, one of at least two exclusively gay porn shops in Austin. And I know exactly which Bigger Than Life he's talking about. It's the 1991 opus starring Jeff Stryker!

All turned out well in the end. But as a public service to my students past and future, I present the following visual aids to help you distinguish between the two Bigger Than Lifes. :)

Just lookin' out for y'all.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Box Sets Suck 4: Nuggets II

Nuggets, Vol. 2: Original Artyfacts From the British Empire & Beyond (Rhino 2001) is much less consistent than Rhino's first Nuggets box. Apart from the jaundiced imitations and what sounds like blue-eyed soul (on a garage/psych box? why?), there are just too many overrated tracks including all of those by The Pretty Things and The Eyes (even the one below doesn't justify their rep), The Factory's proto-motorik "Path Through The Forest," and, above all, Tintern Abbey's "Vacuum Cleaner" (get off your lysergic-soaked ass and help with the vacuuming, buddy!). Gawd, if ever there was a song proving that the sexual revolution did not happen in the 1960s, it's this one - the precise point at which tripped-out bliss becomes smug laziness.

But Nuggets II rocks more on the deconstructive tip. The pimple poppers on the first Nuggets box displayed a confidence in their own burnt-through structures even though they frequently hid from girls behind them. The bunch of sweeties on Nuggets II, however, hover over their creations to gaze at how they're working. They make you aware of their songs as texts. I'm thinking of Tomorrow's "My White Bicycle" and the way the band tries to emulate the opening suckfest of tapes that never knew tomorrow. Or the way sirens and rapid fire bullets swallow up Sands' "Listen to the Sky" before a prog nightmare war march ends the song in a completely antithetical place from where it started. Most of all, I'm thinking of "A Midsummer's Night Scene" where John's Children kick up leaves at a white witch ceremony and the "petals and flowers!" chant visits the climax from another tape world. I read somewhere that the band thought the mix sounded like shit. But that's why the track fascinates. It's not an organic whole but rather a song that primps and preens in a mirror at itself using various colored muds as eyeshadow.

Which means the positions from which these songs are sung are similarly deconstructed. The personae radiate both "I" and "Not I" as they collapse the inside with the outside, the masculine with the feminine, the LSD with the spot of tea and crumpets, the rocking out with the couldn't possibly be bothered with rocking out right now, love. It's a combo that The Sweet would streamline and take to the top of the charts in the next decade. But the sweeties here remain baffling, their motives unreadable. Did The Acid Gallery need such fat-bottomed riffs to "Dance Around The Maypole?" Why does the Blossom Toes' drummer cook more than the eggs that are boiling in "When The Alarm Clock Rings?" And speaking of which, who on earth would sing such couplets as "Think of things you'll do during this new day of toiling/Think of things you'll wear while your eggs are boiling?"

Who are these people? I mean, we know who, say, Caleb (Quaye) "really" is (answer: not related to Tricky). But the authorial voice in "Baby Your Phrasing Is Bad" is so shook that it's difficult to position yourself in relation to it. You feel like you're imposing upon the song rather than listening to it. How else respond to someone whose main complaint is that he has to strain his ear to understand us? How else respond to a guy buried in layers of psychedelic muck and whose voice is phased into oblivion? No wonder why he has trouble hearing.

And yet I'm overstating things a bit at least in terms of my condensation below. Nuggets I-style burners outnumber the effete deconstructions, from The La De Das' "How Is the Air Up There?" (what a great insult!) to The Creation's "Biff! Bang! Pow!" (now we know what a Roy Lichtenstein painting sounds like) to The Zipps' "Kicks & Chicks" (didn't know Mark E. Smith had relatives in The Netherlands). And my favorite song is The Idle Race's relatively straightforward and Apollonian "Days of the Broken Arrows" just like my favorite song on Nuggets I is The Remains' similarly straightforward and Apollonian "Don't Look Back."

But still - why is there more a deconstructive spirit in Brit psych/garage (and in later voices like David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Steve Solamar, Ben Watt, Billy Mackenzie, etc.)? Is it because Britain has ceded world bully status to America? Does deconstructing your own subject position leave you more open to attacks or more prepared for them? Do I respond to the Idle Race and Remains tracks most viscerally because I'm American? Will American song become more deconstructive in the twilight of its empire?

Nuggets from Nuggets II
(Bozelkablog 2002)

1. The Creation: "Making Time"
2. Fire: "Father's Name Was Dad"
3. The Move: "I Can Hear the Grass Grow"
4. The Smoke: "My Friend Jack"
5. Tomorrow: "My White Bicycle"
6. The Eyes: "When the Night Falls"
7. The Idle Race: "Imposters of Life's Magazine"
8. The La De Das: "How Is the Air Up There?"
9. The Sorrows: "Take a Heart"
10. The Mockingbirds: "You Stole My Love"
11. John's Children: "Desdemona"
12. Caleb: "Baby Your Phrasing Is Bad"
13. The Easybeats: "Friday on My Mind"
14. The Move: "Fire Brigade"
15. The Creation: "Biff! Bang! Pow!"
16. The Bluestars: "Social End Product"
17. John's Children: "A Midsummer's Night Scene"
18. Sands: "Listen to the Sky"
19. The Idle Race: "Days of the Broken Arrows"
20. Episode Six: "Love Hate Revenge"
21. Status Quo: "Pictures of Matchstick Men"
22. The Downliners Sect: "Glendora"
23. The Creation: "How Does It Feel to Feel"
24. Timon: "The Bitter Thoughts of Little Jane"
25. The Zipps: "Kicks & Chicks"
26. The Acid Gallery: "Dance Around the Maypole"
27. Kaleidoscope: "Flight from Ashiya"
28. Blossom Toes: "When the Alarm Clock Rings"

Total Time: 1:19:35