Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lou Reed - Rock N Roll Animal

When I think about what I really think Classic Rock is, I think about this album.  I tend to be overly critical of Classic Rock, but this album certainly isn't why I act like that. I act like that because the Baby Boomers so steadfastly refuse to give up the music they grew up with, and they're also the ones that allowed radio stations to all be owned by the same shitty team of accountants that decided if every station in the country was exactly the same, then they could make more money.  Because running at a profit isn't enough, they want to hit the fucking lottery every payday.  But back when I was a kid and the term Classic Rock hadn't been invented (we would just hear Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter playing the live intro to Sweet Jane and say, "Turn it up!  This is a classic!"

So this was sort of my real introduction to The Velvet Underground.  I know, some of you are saying, "That's not VU, ya chucklehead," and I won't try to pretend that it is.  But for a lot of kids in say, 1977 or '78, this was the ubiquitous collection of VU songs that was in everybody's record crate.  The addition of Dick and Steve on guitars kind of smoothed out some of the rough edges of VU, and mad this set a lot more accessible to a lot of people.  I always thought that this was a good thing, because it helped get VU's songs the attention they deserved.  I know they're a big touchstone today, but in 1978, you might read about them sometimes, but you rarely heard them on the radio or found their records in someone's crate, unless that someone was particularly nerdy.

But the great thing about this album is that in making these songs more accessible and radio friendly, a real wide spectrum of people dug this record.  At least here in the flatlands of the Midwest.  I can remember a lot of parties and trunk lids opened up and when the opening intro to Sweet Jane started, so did the party.  It may seem kind of overplayed these days, but it took a lot of years to get us to that state.  The thing is, it seemed like everyone liked that song.  Jocks, burnouts, straight kids - it didn't matter.  Everyone around here loved this album.  Which is cool, because while Ive heard it get panned for being too commercial sounding, it also has a long song called Heroin on it, and the whole thing only has five songs anyway.  So yeah, it has a more commercial sound, but it still required a certain amount of attention on the part of the listener.  The further away from that decade I get, the more I think this is a record Lou Reed should be really proud of.

They played every song on here on the radio.  They played them all at sort of different times of the day.  You could hear Sweet Jane and Rock n' Roll anytime, morning, noon and night.  Heroin would be a night song, White Light, White Heat would be a late afternoon, evening song and Lady Day would be one of those late night, weekend kinds of songs.  How many other albums can boast that kind of radio love?  And like I said, it was in everyone's record crates.  It was definitely in mine, and I think it was one of the first records I bought that I thought meant that I took this music stuff seriously.  I definitely listened to it for fun, but I knew that Dick and Steve were the guitar players and that Prakash John played bass.  This stuff wasn't on the album cover, either.  It may have been on the gatefold cover, but I never saw a copy with that cover until the recent reissue.  The label must have killed that pretty early on, I guess.  I still don't have a gatefold version, but it's also not like I'm looking for one.

I did without this record for years, too.  I remember in about 1987 or 88 I took a stack of about forty records to the used record store and traded them in on cd's.  My plan was to get rid of some stuff I knew I'd replace with cd's for sure.  Fortunately for me, I didn't do that with my whole record collection (I think I'd wake up and cry all day, every day if I did).  But I never did get around to getting this on cd!  I have no idea why, because I think it's truly one of the great Classic Rock albums that everyone should own, but I just never did grab it.  I found a great looking copy of it probably five or six years ago and just grabbed that.  I think it was three bucks.  It's on Dynaflex vinyl, and I think I've mentioned before that I really don't have issues with those.  You have to take care of them, but so long as you have a full size platter, I think they sound just fine.  My copy of this sounds as good as I ever remember it sounding, so I'm okay with it.

I think this is kind of a funny album in that it works for me in the moment, more than as a nostalgic trip.  But the line in Sweet Jane about those being different times when riding in a Stuz-Bearcat (isn't that the best name for a car ever?  I wish I had one) always did make me think about different times, even when I was 16 and this record was only a few years old (but new to me).  It's the rare record that can be this good, this universally loved and this interesting to listen to.  If you don't have it, you should really save up three bucks and get it.  If you do have it, you should grab a beer and put it on!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Shufflin' Around

OK, so here’s an idea I stole from  They just hit shuffle on their ipod and keep track of the next ten songs and let you know what they were.  Yeah, it’s kinda lazy, but it’s also kinda cool.  They listen to more Progressive Rock than I do, but it’s a cool blog anyway.  I don’t have an ipod, so this is just how my car picked some songs off my USB stick.

1. Big DipperLou Gehrig’s Disease.  I like Big Dipper.  I never really heard of them except for All Going Out Together and San Quentin CA, but they get some love over at Rock TownHall and I got Supercluster when it came out.  This song has some nice, fat chords and some neat picking guitars that sort of follow each other.  The lyrics are weird and funny and strange.

2. Deer TickStung.  I love Deer Tick, and this is one of the kinds of songs that makes me love them.  It’s kind of acoustic and slow and John McCauley’s voice is perfectly worn out for the feel of the song.  So far the drive to where I’m going is off to a good start!

3. Dr. FeelgoodThe More I Give.  Cool!  Some killer Pub Rock from my favorite Pub Rock band.  Wilko Johnson is one of my favorite guitar players ever and Lee Brilleaux is one of my favorite singers.  It’s definitely not a cerebral thing with these guys.  It’s a purely physical attraction, and these guys just make me want to be in a bar, with a band and some good beer on draft.

4. Kings of LeonTaper Jean Girl.  I like KOL.  I know, it’s not cool to like them.  It originally wasn’t cool because they had too much backing them, and now it’s not cool because they sound like U2.  Well, I really like their first two albums a lot, and this is a terrific song with a great garage feel.

5. Dr. FeelgoodI Don’t Mind.   Cool!  I don’t know why, but I swear sometimes the car seems to know when it should go back and play a band again.

6. The GreenhornesLeft the World Behind.  I was kind of glad when The Raconteurs took a break, because I like The Greenhornes a lot.  This is off their last album, which was a long wait.  I like this song a lot.  It’s kind of a psychedelic little three minute trip.  These guys just know what made those weird garage-psych songs work, and they get it right again here.

7. Eddie and the Hot RodsGet Across to You.  Yeah!  More Pub Rock!  The opening song from Teenage Depression.  Awesome.

8. Roxy MusicThe Bogus Man.  This is from their live album.  I love that album, and I only really ever knew one other person that had really ever listened to it, and we used to party to this one up at the baseball field.

9. 22-20’sBaby Brings Bad News.  Not the best song on this album, but it’s a really good album.  I don’t know what happened to these guys.  I guess they hated each other or something, but there’s no denying they made one really good Rawk album.

10. Modern LoversShe Cracked.  While I don’t think you need to follow Jonathan Richman too closely, I am the kind of music snob that think the first Modern Lovers album is one of Rock’s almost perfect moments.  This is one of the best songs on the album, and will require that I sit in the parking lot and listen before I go in.  This was actually out of print for awhile, and that should be a crime.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Rolling Stones - Get Yer Ya Ya's Out

For years this was proclaimed the greatest "live" album ever.  It may still be, but someone has probably released something better.  Many people have released albums that are far more "live" than this one, but I never cared if this had studio edits and completely wiped and new vocal tracks.  The fact is, this is a great record.  Not because The Stones were so great on the 69 tour, but because The Stones know how to make a great record.  A record you can listen to over and over and always find something new to love about it.  If you want a document of what The Stones sounded like in 1969, then find yourself a copy of Live'r Than You'll Ever Be, which is possibly one of the best bootlegs ever recorded (you have to consider the date if you compare it to modern bootleg audience recordings, but it's very well done).

Right from the start this album starts kicking your ass, and it doesn't stop until it's all done.  The difference between Got Live if You Want It! and Get Yer Ya Ya's Out! is night and day.  Where the former pasted screaming teenies over studio cuts mixed with live tracks, the latter completely reconstructs live songs by wiping guitar and vocal tracks as an artistic choice, not because of a bum note or missed cue.  I've heard people complain about that, especially with Jumpin' Jack Flash (Jagger's vocals are completely different from every other show on the tour) and the missing verse on Sympathy for the Devil.  It just doesn't matter. Sure, it's not the way it happened, but you also weren't down in your friend's basement shooting pool while The Stones played right in front of you either.

Which is what makes this record so great.  It doesn't matter that it didn't actually happen like that.  What matters is that afterwards, this record screamed PARTY! like no other record.  Sure, you can listen to it in the dark with your headphones and get your ass rocked off pretty good, but this record is meant to be shared with your friends.  Every song on it was chosen for good reason.  Two Chuck Berry numbers, one on each side, remind you that The Stones are a direct offspring of the master, and in case that isn't quite enough pedigree, they put Robert Johnson's Love In Vain on there, too.  Keith's snaky picking and Mick Taylor's electric slide are mesmerizing.  Perfect for basement party and tailgating party slower moments.  Taylor's guitar solo's sound like they're coming down from the rafters of Madison Square Garden right into your party, and everyone knows there's at least one guy at that party that needs to close his eyes, hoist his beer high in the air, and let Mick take him up to those rafters.  Even if it's his shot on the pool table.  You just have to wait, and when it comes down to it, you don't mind because you get it, too.

Midnight Rambler is the song of greatest debate on here.  Is this the definitive version? Is it the version from Brussels in 1973?  Is it the original studio version (some people immediately dismiss that one as somehow inferior, but they're wrong)?  Who cares?  It's a party and there's no need to make a final decision.  Maybe this Midnight Rambler really is the best.  There certainly don't seem to be any overdubs, so The Stones seemed to be very happy with it.  It doesn't matter.  It kicks ass, it always has and it always will.  That's what great songs on great records do.

Sympathy for the Devil is the other song that just burns it up here.  Even missing a verse, it still doesn't matter.  What matters is that Keith Richards plays the first guitar solo, and gives everyone a chance to play some air guitar and really feel the music.  I've got to say, I always liked how Mick Taylor and Keith never seem to be in each others' way.  But then comes the next party debate - Mick Taylor plays his solo, which gives us all yet another opportunity to use a pool cue for an air guitar.  Is Taylor's solo better?  Is Keith's?  has anything better ever really even happened in the whole history of the world?  Who knows?  Party records don't care about that shit.  They just bring the fun and wait patiently until the next party to bring the fun back out.

I've got a couple copies of this.  I listened to an older London Records version while I was thinking about what to put on my blog.  It's nice - no seam splits, tight corners and a clean record with very little surface noise.  I've also got that ABKCO version from 1987.  It's digitally remastered and supposedly on virgin vinyl.  I always thought it sounded pretty good, but I've heard people rip that.  But then they also seem to hear subtle differences as giant deficiencies.  My guess is the 1987 version can be had pretty cheap, and it will get a party going quite nicely.