Pop That Goes Crunch!

Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

Archive for the tag “The Who”

Great Lost Pop Band: The Naughty Sweeties

Naughty Sweeties -- Alice

A friend posted recently on the scheduled closing later this month of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. This prompted memories of bands seen there in days gone by, particularly back in high school. The Jam, The Clash, XTC and even U2 played there back in the late-70s and early-80s. I commented that our parents had driven our 15 year-old selves to and from “The Civic” one night to see 999 and the Dickies.

999 and the Dickies! Now that’s really going back in time. I can’t even recall the last time I heard either of those two bands. The crowd at The Civic went nuts that night in March 1980 when 999 played their then-signature tune “Homicide.”999 and the Dickies

But that also got me thinking. Our parents took us to and from a whole lot of shows before either of us could drive. The Plimsouls in Hollywood and The Who at the Los Angeles Sports Arena came first to mind.

But I also recalled a parent-facilitated evening at either The Starwood, The Whisky or the Roxy to see The Naughty Sweeties back in ’79 or ’80. The Naughty Sweeties? They had a local “hit” back then that garnered a lot of air time on Rodney Bingenheimer’s Sunday night show on KROQ.

“Alice” was not necessarily a typical tune to grace the airwaves in the late-70s. It starts with an image of the aftermath of a friend’s drunken sex in a car with the singer’s girlfriend: “Pink panties on your rear view mirror/Beer cans in the back/I see that you’re going out with Alice/Won’t you give my girlfriend back,” it begins. Not exactly “I wish that I had Jessie’s girl.” More like “You had Jessie’s girl.”

The song also features great hooks, a driving melody, Ian Jack’s increasingly frantic vocals and a pounding chorus about the supposed friend taking advantage of the “hot blooded” Alice. “Why you want to make it when you know that she’s my girl?” Jack pleads as each chorus concludes before the tension begins again.

All of this kept “Alice” in my mind for more than 30 years even though I have no idea when I had last heard the 7-inch pictured at the top of the page. Luckily, someone out there ripped it from vinyl and stuck it up on You Tube:

The Naughty Sweeties called it quits around 1982, although the internet continues to memorialize the happening of a reunion show in 1987 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Madame Wong’s, another local Los Angeles independent music hot spot from the old days. Esther Wong recalled paying the band only $60 to play at her club in 1979. “They had a $300 bar tab,” Wong noted.

Drinking the profits. A venerable tradition in rock and roll.

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Speed Of Live: A Live Record That Is Actually Quite Good

Most live records are kind of lame. They often lack the immediacy that comes with actually being at the recorded performance. Sometimes the playing is ragged. Sometimes the singing is ragged. Sometimes the recording quality is ragged. Sometimes all of the raggedness of a live recording gets covered up by studio lip gloss, thus defeating entirely the concept of a “live” record. You thus are left essentially with new, likely inferior, studio versions of old songs you probably already have. Why bother?

None of that applies to the live released earlier this year by The Grip Weeds called Speed Of Live. The Grip Weeds are a New Jersey band that took their name from John Lennon’s Private Gripweed character in the 1967 film How I Won The War. That, plus a short list of some of the songs they’ve covered in the past, will give you an idea of the musical spectrum from which they hail:

  • “I Can Hear The Grass Grow” — The Move
  • “Down To The Wire” — Buffalo Springfield
  • “She Don’t Care About Time” — The Byrds

Does that mean The Grip Weeds are hopelessly retro and mired in the good old days of the 60s? Not really. They are, first and foremost, a rock and roll band. And they sure can rock. But they are a rock band steeped in the virtues of melody and multi-part harmonies like, well, The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. And, like those bands, the guitars occasionally jangle and sometimes sound like they came from somewhere in the Middle East.

All of these virtues are evident on Speed Of Live. Immediately after the announcer introduces “this band” as “one of my favorite bands” to start the record, Speed Of Live then proceeds to deliver powerful renditions of thirteen of the band’s best known tracks, and two covers, performed in small clubs in the Northeast. This is hardly a document of cigarette lighter-raised arena rock bloat, replete with endless noodling and solos. It instead shows just how good the band is “in concert.” The singing is sharp. The playing is concise and tight throughout the fifty-seven minutes of bass, guitars and drums.

I can listen to the live version of “Salad Days,” with its occasional “Taxman”-like bassline, over-and-over again. “Infinite Soul,” already one of my favorite songs by the band, has an intimate feel on Speed Of Live as if it was recorded in my living room.

The soaring “Speed Of Life” sounds at least as good live as it does on the band’s last “proper” studio recording, 2010’s Strange Change Machine. “Love’s Lost On You” goes on for six minutes on Speed Of Live, without wasting even one of them. Here’s a shorter version of the song, recorded live in the studio:

The two covers on Speed Of Live? “(So You Want To Be A) Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” by, of course, The Byrds. This version seriously rocks, with absolutely perfect harmonies, spectacular guitar playing and lots of “la la la’s.” They also do one of the best versions of “Shakin’ All Over,” which has been recorded dozens of times, most famously by the Guess Who and The Who.

Speed Of Live is not a live record that is just “not lame.” Its fifty-seven minutes go by in what seems like an instant. There is not a single weak song in the collection, or a dull interlude in any of the fifteen songs. The record sounds great whether you are listening with headphones, or driving around in traffic at the end of a tough day at the office. In other words, Speed Of Live is just great rock and roll by a band that deserves a whole lot more attention than it receives. Go out and get it.

[This appeared originally in the now-defunct MT Weekly]

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