Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bing Crosby The Hometown Hero

Just consider the numbers:
Bing Crosby scored 38 #1 hits.Even The Beatles only had 24.

He was the #1 Box Office Star from 1944 to 1949, winning the Best Actor Oscar for "Going My Way".
And his song, "White Christmas", is still the most popular record of all time.
50 million copies sold.

The musical journey of Bing Crosby began on Tacoma's J Street on May 3rd, 1903.

At the age of 4 his family moved to Spokane.
But Washington left a lifelong impression.
He said "I like to remember the Pacific Northwest as a land that can put a song in your heart.
You know when I was a kid around Spokane or Tacoma,
the song was usually carried in sort of an off key whistle."

Bing attended Gonzaga University but dropped out to pursue his musical career--first as part of a trio called The Rhythm Boys.

Pop music critic Gene Stout says thanks to amplified mics, Bing popularized a new singing style:

"That was there term that became popular to describe that style of slower more expressive conversational singing style," says Gene. "And he was a pioneer who influenced Frank Sintra, Deam Martin and so many other crooners that followed."

His interest in working with the very best musicians led Bing to becoming a Civil Rights pioneer. He integrated the stage...sharing the spotlight with his friend Louis Armstrong. No small feat in the 1930's.

And Bing apparently shared more than the stage with jazz musicians.
He loved marijuana which he called "Mezz". As late as the 1970's he was suggesting it should be decriminalized.

"He was a bit of a punk in his day", says Gene. "And I think it's sort of interesting that he carried that over years later and actually became an advocate for decriminalization

Even though his career took him all over the world Bing Crosby always loved the Pacific Northwest. He donated his Oscar and many other mementos to Gonzaga and offered this advice to fans:
"If you'd rather swing on a star as I just did or gather moonbeams up in a jar,you can really be better off that you are by hitting the road to the Pacific Northwest.
Oh it's a great way to discover America."

Though an entire generation believes he only sold orange juice and lacked parenting skills Bing was declared "The Most Admired Man Alive" in 1948--ahead of Jackie Robinson and Pope Pius the 12th. He died in 1977 at the age of 74.

Monday, April 25, 2011

We Are Normal And We Want Our Freedom

As I listened to the opening track of comedy-rockers The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band's second album ,The Doughnut in Granny's Greenhouse, I heard a familiar refrain.
Check it out about two minutes in when the tune finally takes off.
"We are normal and we want our freedom".
It's a line you'll hear towards the very end of Love's "The Red Telephone".( About 4:11 in)

The Bonzo album came out exactly a year after Forever Changes.
Doughnut's album cover somewhat resembling the Incredible String Band's Hangman's Beautiful Daughter

Nobody at work or home would care that I made this connection so I'm laying this turd right here. Enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

#23 The Individuals "Dancing with My Eighty Wives" (1982)

From the same Hoboken NJ music scene that spawned The Feelies, The Bongos, The Cucumbers ( remember them?) and eventually Yo La Tengo comes The Individuals and this college radio one hit wonder that lit up the phones at WTUL like christmas trees.

Produced by dB Gene Holder and recorded at Mitch Easter's legendary Drive-In Studio in Winston-Salem, Fields updated the fractured sound of Richard Hell's Voidoids to great effect.

I can see how polygamy might be a good idea. Because...I'm a guy. But I consider 80 wives a tad over the top. I work in an office with nine women and there's not a moment of silence until the last one leaves.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Remembering Kent Morrill of The Fabulous Wailers

Keyboard maestro and vocalist Kent Morrill of Tacoma WA's Fabulous Wailers has passed away at the age of 70, after giving prostate cancer one hell of a fight. Morill was the only original member of The Wailers to play with the band its entire 50+ year stretch.

It is Morrill, seen here in sunglasses and a hat, whose nimble fingers on the keyboards are featured in The Wailers 1959 Top 40 hit "Tall Cool One"
At the time the boy were still in high school. They played their hit on American Bandstand and The Alan Freed Show.

The Wailers could also play garage punk. Their fuzz rocker "Out of Our Tree" was on one of the Nuggets collections and their 1961 version of "Louie Louie" with Rockin' Robin Roberts was the one the Kingsmen sloppily copied in a Portland studio and made famous. Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders says their band was borrowing heavily from The Wailers as well.

When it came time for The Wailers to really WAAAAIILL, they called upon Kent:

Morrill was also a masterful Roy Orbison tribute artist. But he should be remembered as one of the Godfathers of the Northwest Rock n Roll Scene.
Below is what may be his final show in 2010. Following surgery he appeared right where he belonged: at the keyboards and in fine voice as always.

The Tacoma News Tribune has some thoughts from fellow Wailer Buck Ormsby here
Thanks Kent! Soul-Long and R.I.P.

Mike Oldfield "Tubular Bells" LIVE pts 1, 2 and 3 (1973)

I've been thinking about having my children listen to this CD as they fall asleep at night all summer.
And then on Halloween night, we'll watch The Exorcist together.
Kind of an experiment of sorts.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

#22 Bobby Marchan There Is Something On Your Mind (1960)

In the South, you'd say a guy like Bobby Marchan had a little sugar in his blood... cuz he was so sweet. One of Huey "Piano" Smith's clowns, Bobby cut lead vocals on the classic double A-side ( in my opinion) "High Blood Pressure"/"Don't You Just Know It". Bobby also was the first to sing "Sea Cruise", a million selling single in 1959, but his vocals were replaced by Frankie Ford. Ford would become known as "The New Orleans Dynamo". Bobby was still just a clown.
Bobby finally got around to recording this Big Jay McNeely tune, a somewhat standard ass-swaying tune that, with a big dose of Bobby's theatricality, shot up to #1 on the R&B charts.
Yes, Bobby had a bit of a history with the theatre.

Since his teen years, Bobby liked to dress up as a woman and perform on stage in drag. He even organized his own drag troupe, The Powder Box Revue.
He would perform in drag at least into the 80's when I remember seeing posters of a platinum wigged Marchan stapled to telephone poles in New Orleans. (I was a college student, too dumb to go see Marchan when I could see The Neville Brothers play for the 12th time).

So here's why this is one of my 1001 tunes: the drama queen in Bobby gives us two dramatic monologues in the middle of "There Is Something On Your Mind".
The first one suggests when love is lost, move on.

I tell ya,when somebody else is rockin your cradle better
Than you can rock your cradle yourself,there's only one
Thing left in this world for you to do
Pack your clothes,turn around,walk slowly out the door
Look over your left shoulder,hang your head and say,

If you ever think about me
If I ever cross your mind
...I'm yours, I I know I know your mine

Then comes the second monologue. And the first time I heard this I stopped dead in my tracks. Its like the end of Taxi Driver!

After you can't stand it no more,you go on downtown
To the pawn shop and get yourself a pistol,and then you
Make it back up on the scene,where your love one and
Your best friend are now together..You go right in and
Bust down the door and shoot him..You can't shoot her
Because you know if you shoot her,all of your love and
Your long lifetime will be gone forever..and just as you
make it in your mind to forgive her,here comes another
One of your best friends through the door...This really
Makes you blow your top and you go right ahead and
Go on purpose to your heart,and shoot her...and realizing
What you just done,you say,"Baby please forgive me,I'm
sorry", and with her last dyin breath,she looks up at you
and say,

Doo,doo,doo Whoa-o-o , doo,doo,doo Whoa-o-o

For a thorough history of the Bobby Marchan story, check out this post by The Houndblog.

Paul Simon demonstrates how he made his brilliant new album

    Such an amazing return to form for Paul Simon ! He explains how he went back to an older form of songwriting for the new album So Beautiful or So What

For a limited time you can stream the new album here

    You can also find a downloadable version of the lead track "Getting Ready for Christmas" via The Hype Machine or perhaps right here via Popdose

Monday, April 11, 2011

In Praise of Jini Dellaccio: Northwest Rock'N' Roll Photographer

I feel like I'm surrounded by angels
and have been throughout my entire career.
~ Jini Dellaccio.

Jini Dellaccio was a 40-something L-A Fashion photographer when she moved to Gig Harbor,WA with her husband in the early 60's ... taking any assignment she could get.
One day the phone rang.
"They told me it was The Wailers, " She recounted in her small Seattle apartment. "And since I lived in Gig Harbor, a fishing village, I heard it as 'The Whalers'.
So I thought 'Well it was probably a group of fishermen.
Maybe they have guitars or something'.
And here came these tall handsome young men
all dressed in black leather and boots and long hair
all carrying guitar instruments
I said 'Well they don't look like fishermen'.

                                The Wailers

"They didnt really know what they wanted so I said well maybe we should just go out and start taking pictures
They were taken by that and they were running around.
There was a huuuge maple tree and they were willing to climb the tree
so that was absolutely the start of my rock n roll pictures."

Soon more Seattle bands showed up at Jini's doorstep: The Sonics, The Daily Flash, Don and The Goodtimes, Merrillee Rush and The Goodtimes.

Merrilee told me "The property wasn't very big but there were so many wonderful places to photograph:
On top of piers.Next to a tree.She was just very creative".

                                             Merrilee Rush

"Oh do I remember Merrilee," laughs Jimi. "She was so beautiful. She was my most beautiful subject to work with . She was such a gorgeous girl."

As Jini's reputation spread she met more rock stars. She did a photo session with Neil Young at his house in Laurel Canyon.
"I looked at him and he was wearing one of his new vests that had fringe just clear to the floor." She remembers. " It was beauuutiful grey leather and i said 'Well if i could get you on the roof i could sure get a good picture of you' and he said 'Oh ok'".

                                            Neil Young

"So we went outside. He got a ladder and went up on the roof.
He said 'Now what do you want me to do?' and I said 'Fly like a bird'
and thats how I did the picture."

The legendary Seattle DJ Pat O'Day got Jini front row seats at major concerts so she could shoot The Who, Jeff Beck and The Rolling Stones.
But the Stones concert would be her last.

"The police were there. " She remembers. "Oh man this policeman gave me a shove. Scared the life out of me says 'You cant go up there'.
I said "Well I'm doing this for Pat O'Day.I've been doing it for months'.
He said 'Well you cant do it now.'
When I finished the night I said I'm not going to do this anymore.
I quit. I'm kind of sorry that I did".

In the decades that have followed, her photos have become more influential.

                               The Sonics

"I had no idea that people were looking at my work as an example of 'this is what we should do' and they started doing.Never imagined that happening."

Jini Dellaccio is now in her 90's. Her extraordinary life behind the lens is the subject of an upcoming documentary.
To learn more about this amazing woman and to order her book, click  here.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

#21 Slade "Look Wot You Dun" (1972)

This brilliant tune from UK glam rockers Slade sounds like some kind of long lost Lennon outtake. It also sparked protests from teachers across the UK about its bad spelling. ( See if you can spot the two spelling mistakes in the title)

You really should buy Slade's greatest hits. It will make you wonder why they never "slayed" America. (That was a play on words). Perhaps because they were the only UK band uglier than Badfinger?

Download Slade, Look Wot You Dun

Friday, April 8, 2011

In Praise of "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" \m/ \m/ 1986

It is May 31, 1986 in Landover Maryland when two buddies take a crappy video camera and microphone into the parking lot outside a Judas Priest concert and begin interviewing the drunk heavy metal fans tail-gating there.
What emerges is a brilliant 15 minute time capsule, a document of wasted youth, raging hormones and high school girls that wanted to jump Rob Halford's bones ( Not Likely).

The thing that kills me is in my real life, when I take off the Roy Wood make-up and wig, I shoot stories and half hour documentaries. I love the one location shoot for efficiency's sake but I have yet to make anything this memorable. Devil Fingers to the filmakers: \m/ \m/.

Dave Grohl confims Nirvana kept a VHS copy of Heavy Metal Parking Lot on the tour bus and watched it all the time. The video has been parodied left and right.

But you must see the original. Here's your chance to
see "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" Right Now for Free on Hulu

Shutting U.S. Down?

Just $7 billion apart from reaching a budget agreement, The Tea Party faction of The Republicans have turned the budget debate into an abortion debate. So either the country makes a hard right turn in the next several hours or the government gets shut down.
Camper Van Beethoven, what's your reaction?

Camper Van Beethoven Shut Us Down

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Day John Denver Visited 1968

In December of 1968, only a few week's before his 25th birthday, John Denver visited his old high school sweetheart, my stepmother, at our Iowa farmhouse. Dad brought out the movie camera and tape recorder. I sloppily edited all the footage to his rendition of "When I'm 64". Just before lunch Denver also played "Mr Bojangles", his own "Circus" and Leonard Cohen's "Sisters of Mercy" ("Now THIS is a great song" he said).

After lunch they rode a bit on the shetland ponies and John took a few photos.

This cover version of The Beatles "When I'm 64" would appear on his 1969 album Rhymes and Reasons. which also featured a song called "Leaving on a Jet Plane". Peter Paul and Mary had already recorded the song in 1967 for Album 1700 but didn't release "Jet Plane" as a single until late 1969.It would hit #1.

Denver spent 1969 performing on the college circuit all over the Midwest. He'd put up his own posters and show up at radio stations, guitar in hand, ready to do interviews. His home base was an apartment he shared with his newlywed wife Annie in Edina, Minnesota.

The next time we saw John he was a big star, selling out The New Haven Coliseum.

I always thought he should have recorded an album with just his guitar, like Johnny Cash did on the American Recordings. Maybe the music snob in me would have appreciated him --and getting to meet him--a lot more.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

#20 Caravan "Golf Girl" 1971

This Friday marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Caravan's In the Land of Grey and Pink, the most listenable of all the albums to emerge from that whimsical and jazzy Canterbury Scene.

The album kicks of with "Golf Girl". One of the great mysteries of Rock is the name of the trombonist. Nobody seems to know.
It's an amusing little ditty about love on a golf course. Apparently that's how songwriter Richard Sinclair
found his future wife.

The latest remastered version of the album contains five new cuts, including a song called "Group Girl", apparently the first version of "Golf Girl".

I am happy to say that when I use the search window on iTunes and type "Golf", this is the only song that pops up.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

All Hail Sweet Micky --Mister Presidente Elect!

Michael Martelly a.k.a. Sweet Micky is the president elect of Haiti.
A pioneer of a kind of kompas dance music, sung in Haitian creole, the charismatic Martelly has recorded more than a dozen popular albums since 1988.
On stage he would wear outlandish wigs, drop his pants, dance around in kilts.
In the song above he sings

I dont give a demmmm
I dont give a shita

Now he does give a shit...and he'd better. Since last year's earthquake, hundreds of thousands of people still live in tents. Most people are unemployed. This candidate for change has a lot of "change" to deliver.

The people celebrated Martelly's victory with fireworks. But his support in parliament is nearly nil. Good luck Sweet Micky.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

#19 Archie Bell and the Drells "Tighten Up" 1968

What was in the water at the Bell's home in Houston, Texas? One brother, named Ricky, was a running back at USC and played professionallly for the Bucs and Chargers.
Another brother, Jerry, sang the Dazz band's #1 R&B hit "Let It Whip".
And Archie, the oldest, recorded this classic #1 pop and R&B hit, "Tighten Up".

I could write more about the band but Archie said it best:

Hi everybody
I'm Archie Bell of the Drells
From Houston, Texas
We don't only sing but we dance
Just as good as we walk

Todd Rundgren's Band, The Nazz, responded with a hilarious and catchy track that was supposed to appear on their third record, a double album called Fungo Bat. Alas, the band broke up and fans would have to wait until 1971 to hear "Loosen Up" on Nazz III.

I could write more about The Nazz but Todd said it best:

Hi everybody, we're the Nazz from Philadelphia
Home of the tuna fish hoagie
In Philadelphia, we do a little thing called loosen up
It goes like this

"Tighten Up" is just one of the amazing tracks on Rhino's six cd Beg, Scream & Shout compilation, The Big Ol' Box of 60's Soul. It's the kind of thing you should ask for on your birthday.

Friday, April 1, 2011

#18 Grant McLennan "Haven't I Been a Fool" 1991

For April Fool's Day I've picked a song from Go-Betweener Grant McLennan's first solo album Watershed. Grant passed away in his sleep nearly five years ago, the result of a massive heart attack. He was only 48.

It will become clear over the months ahead that The Go-Betweens are one of my favorite bands. Literate but with great pop sensibilities, they recorded three must-own albums: Liberty Belle and The Black Diamond Express, Tallulah and 16 Lovers Lane before breaking up. That's when Grant went on a tear. If you like this, pick up Watershed and Horsebreaker Star. Grant also recorded with Steve Kilbey of The Church in a band called Jack Frost.

When he re-teamed with Robert Forster in the 2000's the results were mixed. Friends of Rachel Worth has great moments and so does Oceans Apart. Bright Yellow Bright Orange leaves almost no impression.

When the band was recording Rachel Worth in Portland I called the Jackpot! studios offering to shoot video of the sessions for free. Whoever answered said no thanks. He did not have an Australian accent. The phone call lasted about...that long.

I was lucky enough to see the second incarnation of The Go-Betweens in Seattle on their final tour. On stage Grant seemed like a nice, modest friendly guy just happy to be there. Hardly a rock star even when he took the solo spotlight for "Cattle and Cane".