Great Album Retro Review: Empty Glass By Pete Townshend

61Z5Q5NQ2XL

If you know me at all, chances are pretty good that you know The Who is (are? I never know which to use) my favorite band. They have been since October 2, 1982. I can pinpoint it because that was the day I first saw them in concert. (I go into the story in much more depth here.) From that day to today, The Who have held an esteemed place in my heart. And their leader Pete Townshend is the focal point of my love of this band.

Townshend turns 74 this month (May 19). Waitaminute. Wasn’t there something about dying before getting… Oh, never mind…

Anyway, in honor of his birthday, I thought I’d do a retro review of his first “official” solo album – Empty Glass. There had been other non-Who Townshend projects before. At least one album that was originally only intended for other followers of Pete’s spiritual guru Meher Baba – Who Came First from 1972 – and another with musician Ronnie Lane – the excellent album Rough Mix (1977).

In April of 1980, Pete released this album of solo material. It was a tumultuous time for Pete. It hadn’t yet been two years since his bandmate Keith Moon had died, there were strains in his marriage to Karen, eleven people had been crushed to death attempting to get into the venue The Who were playing in Cincinnati the previous December, and he wasn’t doing well in his struggle with booze and drugs.

But despite all this, or maybe because of it, he produced what I think is a brilliant album.

The Tracks:

Rough Boys – Dedicated to his daughters and the Sex Pistols, this song fueled much speculation as to whether or not Townshend was coming out as bisexual. Folks focused on the “I wanna bite and kiss you” line when he was singing about rough boys. Maybe, but so what? This is a fantastic opening track. It’s rough and aggressive with plenty of windmilling power chords. Great horns at the end.

I Am An Animal – Townshend always had a knack for great melody. Even unusual ones. This one is great. It soars and it wallows. It’s self-critical and it’s proud. And no one drops an F-bomb quite as well as Pete. This is my favorite track on the album.

And I Moved – This is another possible admission of bisexuality (again, who cares?), which is much more explicit. What I’ve read about the song was that Pete had written it for Bette Midler, but she turned it down, so he recorded it himself without changing the gender reference. That’s cool. And the cascading piano by John “Rabbit” Bundrick is terrific.

Let Me Love Open The Door –  This was Pete’s one hit as a solo artist. It made the Top Ten on the Billboard Hot 100. His intent for the lyrics was that God was imploring us to allow His love to open our hearts. But listeners chose to believe it to be a song about a person attempting to romance someone who might not be ready for love. I think of it as the latter.

Jools And Jim – In an answer to certain rock critics who were underwhelmed by Keith Moon’s greatness and his death, Townshend recorded this scathing critique of critics. This song seems to have been an attempt to pick up on the aggression expressed by the Punk Rock movement, of which Pete had been a strong proponent.

Keep On Working – This is a pleasant ditty about the pleasures of working, having children, and being a bit in the red. There’s a video for this song in which Pete looks like hell. He’s pasty, emaciated. He looks as though he hasn’t slept in days as he wanders around a dingy apartment, drinking some kind of booze right from the bottle, while wearing a very lived-in bathrobe. And, yet, his sense of humor still comes through as he writes the lyrics of the song on a chalkboard. Check out the video here.

Cat’s In The Cupboard – This is a pretty straight forward rocker about freeing cats trapped in cupboards. I think. Some good guitar riffs and plenty of harmonica.

A Little Is Enough – The story as I know it goes like this: Pete’s wife had told him she no longer loved him. Ouch! But he did get her to admit that she did still love him a little. When he sought spiritual advice on his marriage, he told his advisor of Karen’s “a little” remark. His advisor reacted, “Ah! Well then a little is enough!” Song inspired!

Empty Glass – This title track was actually recorded earlier by The Who during the Who Are You? album sessions. I prefer this version. This is another song in which Pete seems to knocking on himself while still proudly puffing out his chest. There’s lots of slashing power chords as Pete rips through this one.

Gonna Get Ya – A call and response rocker to close out this great album is bluesy and bombastic and a bit overlong. At six and a half minutes it drags a little, but it’s still a good closer for this excellent record.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

Advertisements

Great Album Retro Review: The Blurred Crusade By The Church

22923-the-blurred-crusade

One of my favorite bands from the 1980s produced this, one of my all-time favorite albums. The album is The Blurred Crusade, released in 1982, and it was recorded by Australia’s guitar-based alt-rock band The Church. It was their second album.

There’s an adage in the music industry that asserts artists have a lifetime to write their first album, but then only a year or two to write their second. The adage is meant to explain why the sophomore efforts of so many recording artists seem to drop off in quality from their freshman work. The adage may have some merit, but not in this case.

The Blurred Crusade is a brilliant album that improves on the band’s first release, Of Skins And Hearts (1981). This album is more focused and cohesive. It’s also more of a full band effort than their first album, which was more influenced by lead singer/bassist/songwriter Steve Kilbey. The guitar work of Peter Koppes and Marty Wilson-Piper is fantastic and flows so well together. And it’s jangly guitar. I love jangly guitar!

This is one of those albums that is best listened to from beginning to end. I strongly suggest that’s how you experience it.

The Tracks:

Almost With You – Holy smokes! What an outstanding opening track. If I were asked to suggest which song of The Church’s early career best defines their sound, this would be the one. Great guitar interplay, great pace, Kilbey’s deep voice, with plenty of that ethereal feel for which the band was (and still is) known. It’s my favorite track.

When You Were Mine – There’s that big 80s drum sound going on throughout the album and it’s quite noticeable here in Richard Ploog’s drumming. This is one of their rockers!

Field Of Mars – Wilson-Piper takes lead vocal on this trippy, ethereal track. I’m not sure what the lyrics mean, but so what? Most of The Church’s songs are more about the feel of the lyrics than the literal meaning. I’m sure there’s some meaning in here, but why ask why?

An Interlude – Written by the entire band, we once again get plenty of jangly guitars and trippy, albeit few, lyrics as the song builds in intensity, backs off, and builds again. The intermittent use of the hushed female vocals is a nice touch on this mostly instrumental track.

Secret Corners – A brief track that is a nice little breather to cap off the first half of the album.

Just For You – This track opens with a little theatrics. Kilbey is heard strumming away on an acoustic guitar and humming when he is interrupted by a knock on the door. He responds to the knock and opens the door to the beginning of this song. It’s a great love song, but there’s a better one yet to come.

A Fire Burns – Some good buzz to the jangly guitar on this track. Good riff.

To Be In Your Eyes – This is the better love song I was referring to earlier. It’s really good. “I want the person inside me to be someone I’d recognize, if he was in your eyes…” Nice line.

You Took – An epic track that takes the listener on quite a musical journey. Slowly building at first, but then it rocks threw most of its eight minutes, it culminates with the lyric that became the album’s title. This was always a show-stopper when played in their live sets.

Don’t Look Back – A gentle, mostly acoustic, track to wrap up such an excellent album.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

Remembering Pete Shelley (1955-2018)

47580558_10157043172277472_4248215108104224768_n

In the fall of 1983 I started my first year attending art school in St. Paul, MN. I had graduated high school the previous spring and I still carried much of my high school baggage with me, including a more mainstream taste in music. By the end of that first year, I had almost completely cast off my liking of what I then considered the trivial, trite, treacle of Top 40 radio. I had embraced the music that would come to be known as alternative.

I had a friend from high school who joined me in the exploration of punk, post-punk, industrial, and goth. We were completely open to hearing this underground music.

Sometime in the summer of 1984, the two of us were at a record store rummaging through a bin of discount priced albums on cassette. My friend grabbed a copy of Gary Numan’s Pleasure Principle (1979) and I scarfed up the album A Different Kind Of Tension (1979) by a band called Buzzcocks. I liked the name of the band and thought the cover art was intriguing and it was cheap, so I bought it.

We put our new music into my friend’s car stereo and went for a cruise around town. There are few things more enjoyable than hitting the road, windows down, and the stereo cranking good tunes. And, on that day, we both agreed that my purchase was pretty kick ass.

The Buzzcocks were one of the first of the UK punk bands to form in the 1970s. They infused punk sensibilities into infectious, danceable, driving pop songs. Their influence was far-reaching. In fact, the BBC said that the Buzzcocks’ influence can be heard in the music of such bands as Husker Du and Nirvana. To that I would add Naked Raygun and Green Day.

I was so excited by this band. But, they had broken up in 1981. Darn it! My timing was off.

However, Pete Shelley, the principle songwriter and singer of the band, had embarked on a solo career, continuing to produce danceable pop with a punk attitude and synthesizers. In 1986, he came to Minneapolis to perform at the legendary nightclub First Avenue & 7th Street Entry.  My friend and I jumped at the chance to see him.

As I recall, there wasn’t a large crowd, but those who were there got a damn good show. At the front of the stage was about a dozen or so guys, myself included, just completely going bonkers for the music. Slam dancing, pogoing, skanking, and sweating to the point of exhaustion. Shelley started the show with his solo track Telephone Operator and then played a set mixing in plenty of Buzzcocks tunes with his solo work. It was glorious!

He finished the set then he and his band came back on stage to give us an encore of two or three great songs. He left the stage again, but we wouldn’t have it. The crowd was so jacked up we demanded he return to give us more. He did.

He launched into a reprise of Telephone Operator and we loved it!

In 1989, the Buzzcocks reformed. They toured extensively and produced several new albums. They came through Minneapolis many times and you bet I was there. Slam dancing, pogoing, skanking, and sweating to the point of exhaustion.

Pete Shelley died last Thursday (12/6) of an apparent heart attack. He was 63. Too young.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books.

Great Album Retro Review: This Ain’t No Outerspace Ship By Love Tractor

R-1935163-1267210705.jpeg

I’m going a little hipster here by looking at an album by one of the lesser known bands to come out of Athens, GA in the ’80s. Also, as this series continues, you will probably notice quite a few of my picks are from the ’80s. What can I say? I guess I’m stuck.

It was 1987 and my friend John, who was my cohort in the discovery of music that matters, not that crappy pop and hair metal getting all the radio airtime, found out about this band. They’re called Love Tractor. I hadn’t hear of them before John discovered this their fifth album: This Ain’t No Outerspace Ship.

I have to admit, I don’t know much of anything about their other musical output. I will try to remedy that, but I just love this album.

If you need an example of lilting guitars, this is it! Along with the lilting guitars is plenty of excellent melodies and hooks. This album just feels so good.

The tracks:

Cartoon Kiddies – This is my second favorite track on the album which is an ode to TV cartoons, most particularly Top Cat. Now, Top Cat wasn’t one of my favorites, but this song is a great kick off

Small Town – There’s just something about Mark Richmond’s vocals. There’s an ease to them as well as just the merest hint of snarl. Nothing threatening though. And his frequent forays into falsetto really work for me.

Chili Part Two – This song is more of an instrumental, which touches on the band’s roots as they started out an instrumental band, with a few bits of lyrics thrown in. And I find it so effective when the lyrics come rolling in – “Heeeeeere cooomes that feeeeliiing agaaaaiiin!”

Night Club Scene – The lilting guitars glide over the big ’80s drumbeat as this song opens. It’s a slower song that contains the line that gives the album its title. What does the song mean? I dunno.

Outside With Ma – For me, this is the weakest track on the album. That’s not to say it’s a bad song. It has a darker feel than the rest of the album. It also has a funky feel, which doesn’t quite work.

Rudolf Nureyev – Returning to their roots, this is the album’s first of two fully instrumental tracks. Plenty of lilt and I can almost see the dancer after whom it is named dancing gracefully along.

Beatle BootsHands down, my favorite song on the album! It just feels so good. It’s got a great ’80s dance vibe. The lyrics speak of an emotionally complicated woman who is both a hero and a mess. I love this song!

Amusement Park – This song sounds like Summer. It’s about hanging out and seeking thrills. “Meet me here. Meet me there.” Let’s go downtown, to the record store, and, of course, to that amusement park.

Party Train – A fun, rockin’ yet still funky cover of The Gap Band hit. Love Tractor makes it their own. And it’s pretty good.

We All Loved Each Other So Much – On the original vinyl release, this was the last track of the album. It was also the second fully instrumental track. It’s a quiet contemplative tune and, at just over seven minutes, the longest track on the album. Lilting to the very end.

Got To Give It Up – This bonus track is another funky cover song. This time the band covers the great dance party track by Marvin Gaye. Lots of falsetto and lots of fun. It’s a nice bonus.

Wanna give it a listen? Of course, you do! It’s available on iTunes and Spotify. Check it out!

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Images used under Fair Use.

This Is XTC! This Is Pop!

xtc-thisispop-hr

Andy Partridge simply hates rock documentaries. That’s what he tells us in the opening moments of a new rock documentary called XTC: This Is Pop, which began airing on Showtime in January 2018.

Andy Partridge is the leader of a rock/pop band called XTC and he finds himself taking part, a large part, in that very thing he hates: A rock documentary. And XTC fans are so glad he did.

xtc2
Andy Partridge

Placed in the One-Hit Wonder bin in the American music market, I’ve often stated that it is criminal that XTC never got as big as their contemporaries The Police. It’s about time the greater public learn about how good this band really is and this documentary will help. Musician Stewart Copeland of The Police and actor Harry Shearer, along with other musical artists and fans, are there to heap praise on this excellent band from Swindon, England. XTC may not have found a big audience, but they had a far reaching influence on many of the pop bands that followed them.

The documentary is as much about Partridge himself as it is about the band. And that’s a drawback, because we’re not given much of a backstory about the other members of the band: Colin Moulding, Dave Gregory, Terry Chambers, and Barry Andrews. Moulding, Gregory, and Chambers do contribute to the film (and the three of them all have an odd whispered, raspy tone to their voices).

qYUXRWXtYmKexZG-1600x900-noPad
L to R: Partridge, Colin Moulding, Dave Gregory, Terry Chambers

Andrews is missing from the film. That may be due to the friction between him and Partridge while they were in the band together. Partridge’s attitude was – “This is my band!” Andrews wanted it to be his band. The friction led to Andrews leaving and then co-founding Shriekback. In later years, the two headstrong artists did work together on Partridge’s 2007 album of improvised instrumentals – Monstrance.

CoatBA1978
Barry Andrews

As we learn about the band’s formation in the ’70s and growth through the ’80s, ’90s, and into the ’00s; going from glam to punk to rock to lush and beautiful pop, we also learn about Andy growing up an only child having a mother with OCD, his drug-addiction that began to develop when he was 13, and we get a deeper explanation of his crippling stage fright that turned XTC from a touring band into studio artists in 1982. The stage fright was a double-edged sword. It prevented XTC from breaking through just as they were on the verge of a major American tour. But, it gave the musicians a much, much larger “box of paints” to use to create such wonderful music.

It’s a fascinating look at such an intriguing artist and his awesome band. However, clocking in at a mere hour and fifteen minutes, to quote XTC’s song All Of A Sudden, “there’s plenty missing in the middle.” There is barely any mention of XTC’s last two albums: Apple Venus Vol. 1 and Wasp Star: Apple Venus Vol. 2. And I would have liked to learn about the seven year strike the band went on, from 1992 until 1999, against their record label Virgin. But, as it is said in show business, always leave them wanting more.

Give it a watch. Your new favorite band is just waiting for you to find them.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books.

 

Pods Looking Back 2: Another List Of My Favorite Nostalgic Podcasts

A year ago I recommended a few podcasts that have a nostalgic theme to them. (Click here to get that list.) Since new podcasts are always popping up, I thought I should list a few more as suggestions for your listening pleasure.

These are podcasts and the rules of terrestrial radio do not apply. These shows may have adult language and themes, so you should check them out first before sharing them with your kids or more sensitive folks.

77-og

The Dollop with Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds The hosts are comedians who dive deep into an historical topic and mine whatever comedy gold can be found. Dave is the “historian” who finds the topics and gives the information to Gareth, who doesn’t know what each show’s topic is until they start recording. The two will then riff to their hearts’ content. Some of the show are absolutely hilarious.

They get very bawdy as they work their way through each show’s topic. The Dollop has over 300 hundred episodes and I’ve just started listening to it, so I have a long way to go to catch up, but I find it very entertaining and informative.

95773

My Favorite Murder Odds are pretty good that, if you’re familiar with podcasts at all, you’ve heard about this one. Hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark are two comedians who discovered that they both really like murder stories. They decided to do a podcast discussing various real life murders. Their first show dropped in January, 2016 and the podcast has taken the world by storm. Combining their regular shows with their “minisodes” Karen and Georgia are closing in on 180 episodes.

It is a comedic show about murder, but the hosts are careful to respect the victims and the families and friends. They also try to give sound advice on preventing oneself from being a victim. It’s a very funny podcast with a big heart that reminds us to “stay sexy and don’t get murdered!”

774a54a30196a2c2c60e23ee89d8ac8adf3f8a1e00907d0d707194a06aeddf78a08c23a3cbbf3b38bf5e0359c60d2876c8a9c0103836f356e0e91871a2f53bda

Friendly Fire In my first podcast suggestions blog I recommended The Greatest Generation podcast. It’s a podcast about the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, they have gone through all that classic sci-fi program’s episodes and they have since moved on to discussing Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (I still recommend it!) Well, the hosts of The Greatest Generation, Adam Pranica and Benjamin Harrison, have teamed up with John Roderick to examine war movies.

Each week they examine a different war movie (and who doesn’t like war movies?) for its accuracy and cinematic value, and they manage to get some laughs along the way. Although, so far, most of their reviewed films have been WWII-based, they will cover other wars. They’ve talked about Saving Private Ryan, of course, but they’ve also reviewed Master & Commander: From The Far Side Of The World, First Blood (yes, they considered that a war movie), and they will be watching Braveheart for an upcoming installment.

icon_550140934-31803f626137f58b58876a446beff23b16f0d5e7-s400-c85

Du You Remember? A Podcast About Husker Du And, finally, I’m recommending this podcast to anyone who is a fan of alternative music. It’s just five installments (with two extras, one a short introduction to the series, the other a tribute to drummer/singer/songwriter Grant Hart) and it is a fascinating look at one of alternative rock’s founding bands.

Husker Du came from St. Paul, MN in the late 70s and created their own tremendous presence in the 80s hardcore/punk/underground music scene. The podcast has interviews with all three members (Hart, Bob Mould, and Greg Norton) done just prior to Hart’s untimely death in September, 2017. The band members and others who worked with them or were fans and friends tell the story of the music scene in the 80s, how Husker Du was formed, how they embraced the “do it yourself” ethic, their rise and abrupt fall, and how very important they were to the music world. Without Husker Du, there would have been no Pixies, no Nirvana, no Green Day.

It’s all good stuff!

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Images used under Fair Use.

Pat DiNizio 1955-2017

Guest blogger Michael Noble returns with a memory of The Smithereens and patient persistence as a tribute to lead singer Pat DiNizio, who the world lost to cancer earlier this week.

B9324385993Z.1_20161021123234_000_GUEG3OP7C.1-0

It was naturally sad to hear of the passing Pat Dinizio this week, lead singer for the moderately successful power pop band The Smithereens. I was a fan of their brand of music: Crunching, driving guitars, catchy, hook-laden singles with the occasional melancholy tear-jerker thrown in for good measure. And, oh…what a voice DiNizio possessed. Instantly identifiable every time…at least to my ears.

He will be missed.

Shortly after hearing the news, my mind went a couple places. First, I knew what my work night music menu consisted of – a healthy helping of The Smithereens’ catalog. And then my nostalgia kicked in and I remembered one of the times I went to see them live.

It was 30-some odd years ago. It was a friend’s birthday and it was just the two of us for a night on the town. I knew The Smithereens were playing the world famous Roxy in Hollywood and that, I’d decided, was our destination. I heard the show was sold out, but that never stopped me for going anywhere. Somehow, I would get us into the show.

We arrived and were promptly told by the box office the place was filled to capacity with no tickets left. We hung out anyway, my friend firing questions at me. Yes, we were going to wait it out; someone was bound to come by with extra tickets or some such so we could go inside. He was doubtful, commenting it was not the manner in which he thought his birthday evening would go. Me? I was my usual cheery happy-go-lucky and confident self.

20 minutes into the opening act, a staffer came out for a smoke. He saw us saunter our way over. “Waiting for someone he asked?” he asked. I told him yes, someone with a couple tickets to spare. He chuckled and walked off, puffing away.

Half an hour more passed. I could hear the opening act firing up their final tune of the night and, afterward, out came that same staffer for another smoke. “Still no one with tickets, huh?”

I shrugged.

“The place is packed. Matter of fact, the fire marshal came by earlier to check us out, make sure we weren’t violating any fire codes by having too many people in the place. And we were right on cue, not a person more in the joint than we’re allowed. I hate that damned fire marshal, always coming around and checking on us…”

He took a drag of his cigarette.

“You know what? Screw him and his fire codes. You want in? Follow me…”

And that is how we got into the show, on a lark.

At some point into The Smithereens’ set, I turned and noted to my friend, “Not a bad birthday after all, huh?”

Thanks for the memory, Pat and comrades. Rest in peace.

Thank you, Michael. You can read more of his writing at hotchka.com.

Feel free to comment and share.