Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Nerves - "Hanging on the Telephone" (the song remains the same)

Although "Hanging on the Telephone" was popularized by Blondie, it was first released on The Nerves' eponymous, 1976 four song EP. Don't feel bad if you've never heard of them: The Nerves released this EP, toured briefly, established a template for new wave bands like The Knack, broke up, and then formed the basis for bands like The Beat (Paul Collins) and The Plimsouls (Peter Case).

The song was released as a single from Blondie's 1978 LP "Parallel Lines". Blondie is mostly remembered now for their songs that flirted with (arguably bordering on parodying) other genres such as hip hop ("Rapture"), reggae ("The Tide is High") and disco ("Heart of Glass"). Songs like "Hanging on the Telephone" remind the listener that Blondie was primarily a new wave band. Although I have contemporary memories of other singles from "Parallel Lines" (e.g., "One Way or Another") getting TV and radio play, I don't recall the same for "Hanging on the Telephone".

Other versions of the song are listed below, but they are all pretty close to the original. But when the original is two and half minutes of power pop perfection, why mess with it?

The Nerves: YouTube. This sounds like what I think The Beach Boys would have sounded like if they had started in 1976 instead of 1961.

Paul Collins and Peter Case: YouTube. Only Jack Lee is missing.

Blondie: YouTube; a live, 1979 version; a live, 1999 version from The Late Show with David Letterman.

The Beat: YouTube.

L7: YouTube. From the 1995 Jerky Boys soundtrack.

Def Leppard: YouTube. From their 2006 cover song LP, "Yeah!"

Bonus Tracks from the "The Nerves" EP: "When You Find Out", "Give Me Some Time", "Working Too Hard".

Monday, May 25, 2009

DJ Shadow - "What Does Your Soul Look Like" (LP review)

Most people are probably familiar with DJ Shadow's "What Does Your Soul Look Like", parts 1-4. Part 4 and a slightly edited version of Part 1 appeared on 1996's "Endtroducing....", and all four parts appeared on the 1998 compilation LP "Preemptive Strike" arguably forming the core of the LP). But in 1994, "What Does Your Soul Look Like" was released as a single on Mo' Wax Records (albeit, a 32+ minute "single").

Even though I could create the same effect by creating a play list from "Preemptive Strike", I purchased the out-of-print CD version off eBay many years ago. As a collector, I just had to have the original release. "Endtroducing...." put DJ Shadow on the map and early singles (such as "Lost and Found", which was inexplicably left off "Preemptive Strike") gave a preview of where his music would go. But these four songs represent his finest work to date. If you are not familiar with these songs, you owe it to yourself to listen. If you are familiar with them, try decontextualizing them from the middle of "Preemptive Strike" and listen to them as release by themselves.

Standout Tracks: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 1.

Skip 'em Tracks: none.

Final Score: 10/10.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Specials - "Rat Race" (forgotten song)

It's been a while since my last remembrance of early MTV. I don't recall ska getting much radio airplay in the early 80s in Hampton Roads, but it was a staple of the early days of MTV. It was big in the UK at the time and as I've covered before, MTV played pretty much anything during the early days. Artists on 2-Tone Records were putting out videos and MTV played them.

I wasn't really a fan of The Specials during the early 80s (it was beyond my middle school comprehension), but I was exposed to it. I've since become a big fan and their first two LPs are on the "to review" list (a very long list, btw). "Rat Race", their 1980 non-LP single, is my first memory of them on MTV. It is certainly not their most popular song (that would most likely be "A Message to You, Rudy"), but unless you have the various compilation LPs on which it appears (or the original 7"), I doubt you've heard this excellent song in a long time. Enjoy.

Link: YouTube.

B-side Bonus link: "Rude Boys Outta Jail": YouTube.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cut Chemist - "Bunky's Pick" (LP Review)

"Bunky's Pick" is not really an LP, but a 2001 three song single (at 21+ minutes, perhaps it should be considered an EP) released on Stones Throw Records. It was very puzzling when I first got it many years ago: "Bunky's Pick" is by Cut Chemist, "6 Variations of In the Rain" is by Madlib, and "In the Rain" is by Billy Wooten. The reconstructions from Cut Chemist and Madlib were great (as you would expect) and the song by Billy Wooten was beautiful. But why did this single/EP exist? Why does Cut Chemist have primary billing? Who is Billy Wooten? I didn't understand how these three songs came to be on the same release.

I eventually learned this can be best thought of as a companion to the compilation LP "The Funky 16 Corners", also released on Stones Throw Records. In fact, "Bunky's Pick" is a bonus track on some versions of the LP. Cut Chemist remixed the highlights from the LP into a single 7:48 track. As Madlib's song title suggests, he focuses just on different interpretations of "In the Rain". Although I haven't seen a physical copy, apparently some versions of this single featured Madlib with primary billing. IIRC, this single was also my first introduction to Madlib.

To contrast with the Madlib version, the original version of "In the Rain" is also provided ("In the Rain" is also on "The Funky 16 Corners", although it originally appears on "The Wooden Glass Recorded Live"). Billy Wooten (the featured artist in the group "Wooden Glass") is a jazz vibraphonist and this song was my first introduction to him. Prior to hearing this, I would have been skeptical about "jazz vibraphone", but you can't deny the beauty of this song. I guess I'm a believer now.

Standout Tracks: Bunky's Pick, 6 Variations of In the Rain, In the Rain.

Skip 'em Tracks: none.

Final Score: 10/10

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Clash - "Bankrobber" (forgotten song)

What's the greatest Clash song you've never heard? Probably "Bankrobber", a 1980 single that was recorded during the sessions for "Sandinista!" but was not released on that LP. It has made it on to a few compilation LPs, including 1980's 10" EP "Black Market Clash", where it was combined with "Robber Dub" (a dub version of "Bankrobber") as a single song. Unfortunately, when "Black Market Clash" was reissued as "Super Black Market Clash", only "Robber Dub" was kept and "Bankrobber" was deleted (perhaps the only flaw in an otherwise good B-side collection). You can find the single version of "Bankrobber" on many, many compilation LPs that have since been released, but I'm not aware of an LP in print that offers the 6:16 version of "Bankrobber/Robber Dub".

Interestingly enough, the B-side of the "Bankrobber" single did not feature "Robber Dub" (though it was originally intended that way) but instead features "Rockers Galore... UK Tour", which is essentially an instrumental version of "Bankrobber" with Mikey Dread toasting over the track. Dread is the producer of the single and is featured in the video ("Dread at the controls").

"Bankrobber" is probably the highlight of punk/reggae hybrid. The Clash's covers of reggae songs are excellent (e.g., "Pressure Drop", "Police on My Back", "Police and Thieves"), but they're covers. Here we find the band comfortably writing original music at the nexus of the two genres. Considering all the puzzling songs that appear on "Sandinista!", I sure wish they had found room for "Bankrobber" and friends.

Bankrobber: YouTube (official video), Dailymotion, YouTube.

Robber Dub: YouTube.

Bankrobber/Robber Dub: YouTube.

Rockers Galore... UK Tour: YouTube, Grooveshark.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Big Audio Dynamite II - "Rush" (forgotten song)

Shortly after Mick Jones was fired from The Clash, he formed
Big Audio Dynamite (BAD). BAD, which also featured Don Letts, explored the genre-bending, hip-hop/rock crossovers that The Clash had explored in earlier releases like "This is Radio Clash" and "Sandinista!". BAD made music that was ahead of its time, but it never really had a stable line up. Starting in 1990, due to line up changes the band was billed as "Big Audio Dynamite II" and by the time of 1991's "The Globe" LP, only Mick Jones remained as the original member.

The first single from "The Globe" was "Rush" and it fared pretty well on radio. I'm always of two minds when I hear this song: 1) Why did this amazing song not receive more airplay than it did, and 2) How did this song receive any airplay? The minute long "break" (approximately 1:51 - 2:58) breaks every rule imaginable for a successful single.

Link: studio version, studio version (, live version.

P.S. SonyBMG gets it. WMG still doesn't.

P.P.S. With the advent of Vevo, SonyBMG gets it a lot less than they used to.

P.P.P.S. SonyBMG / Vevo no longer get it.