Pop That Goes Crunch!

Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

Archive for the tag “Velvet Underground”

The Big Show #1: Cover Me

Deep Fried FanclunLast week, I premiered at Pop That Goes Crunch radio, a weekly show hosted by me called “The Big Show.” Each show will be approximately a hour-long. They usually will be themed.

The first show consisted entirely of “covers.” The focus, however, was on covers of well-known songs by well-known artists, but which themselves are not particularly well-known.

Included within “Cover Me” is:

  • Teenage Fanclub covering The Beatles’ “The Ballad Of John & Yoko,” from their odds and sods compilation, Deep Fried Fanclub, pictured above.
  • The Jam covering The Beatles’ “Rain”.
  • Jellyfish covering The Move’s “I Can Hear The Grass Grow.”
  • Wondermints covering Elvis Costello’s “I Hope You’re Happy Now.”
  • Old 97’s covering R.E.M.’s “Driver 8.”

“Cover Me” is posted on Mixcloud, but you can hear it directly in this post by clicking on the picture below. The complete track list appears below that.

 

Track List:

1.  Teenage Fanclub, “The Ballad Of John & Yoko”

2.  Redd Kross, “It Won’t Be Long.”

3.  The Jam, “Rain”

4.  Cheap Trick, “California Man”

5.  Jellyfish, “I Can Hear The Grass Grow.”

6.  Andy Reed, “The Glutton Of Sympathy”

7.  Hippodrome, “Foggy Notion”

8.  Big Star, “Femme Fatale”

9.  The Dead Girls, “You And Your Sister”

10. The Posies, “I Am The Cosmos”

11. Wondermints, “I Hope You’re Happy Now”

12. Elvis Costello, “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down”

13. Grant Lindberg, “On A Plain”

14. Nirvana, “The Man Who Sold The World”

15. R.E.M., “Crazy”

16. Old 97’s, “Driver 8”

17. Kurt Baker, “Hangin’ On The Telephone”

18. The Muffs, “Rock & Roll Girl.”

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Lou Reed’s Pop Genius

Lou ReedThe intrepid curators of the PowerPop blog unearthed and posted a wonderful piece of formerly lost pop music history — a 20 year-old “Lewis” Reed making like Dion a couple of years before the Beatles first landed in the United States. You can check out “Lewis” bouncing his way through the minute-fifty nine “Your Love” right here. It’s a nice surprise.

I bring this up because the tributes to Reed following his passing focused generally on the same things. AP’s tribute to the “iconic punk poet” is fairly typical:

His trademarks were a monotone of surprising emotional range and power; slashing, grinding guitar; and lyrics that were complex, yet conversational, designed to make you feel as if Reed were seated next to you. Known for his cold stare and gaunt features, he was a cynic and a seeker who seemed to embody downtown Manhattan culture of the 1960s and ’70s and was as essential a New York artist as Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen. Reed’s New York was a jaded city of drag queens, drug addicts and violence, but it was also as wondrous as any Allen comedy, with so many of Reed’s songs explorations of right and wrong and quests for transcendence.

Although I have no real quarrel with that, it forgets that Reed could also pen the perfect melody. The 20-year-old “Lewis” heard on “Your Love” persisted through Reed’s later excursions into “slashing” and “grinding” guitars to write some of the best and most enduring pop music of the past fifty years.

One of the best examples of Reed’s pop instincts in action is “Stephanie Says,” which was recorded in 1968 but did not officially see the light of day until 1985. Its lilting strings and celesta (a keyboard instrument with metal plates struck by hammers to produce bell-like tones) give it a baroque feel. The power of the lyrics derive from the way the words sound together instead of whatever they might mean:

Stephanie says that she wants to know/Why she’s given half her life/to people she hates now

Stephanie says when answering the phone/What country shall I say is calling from across the world

Here it is, complete with lyrics:

The celesta also “propels” another one of Reed’s pure pop masterpieces, the lush and daydreamy “Sunday Morning,” the track that kicks off The Velvet Underground With Nico. Its words are also memorable, and stick in your mind, based on how they sound strung together so simply and precisely:

Watch out, the world’s behind you/There’s always someone around you who will call/It’s nothing at all

Here it is:

I first discovered Reed and The Velvet Underground in the 80s when my I was rocking to The Clash and other kindred spirits. “I’m Waiting for the Man” and “Heroin” were, and remain, great songs about “the downtown Manhattan culture of the 60s.” But I always preferred “Stephanie Says” and “Sunday Morning,” as well as songs like “Sweet Jane,” “Pale Blue Eyes” and “What Goes On.”

Anyone can make “slashing” and “grinding” guitar sounds. It takes a pop genius to write, as Reed did in “Stephanie Says,”: “But she’s not afraid to die, the people all call her Alaska /Between worlds so the people ask her/’cause it’s all in her mind/It’s all in her mind.”

Big Star’s “Breathtakingly Beautiful Music”

Today I am reblogging a piece from last month on Big Star. As Brian Westbye notes, they indeed put out “breathtakingly beautiful music.” My earlier post on the band, and “September Gurls” in particular, can be found here: https://popthatgoescrunch.com/2011/12/19/the-greatest-song-you-probably-never-heard/

brian westbye

This is the third installment of a series. Due to the subjective nature of what quantifies a One Hit Wonder, how much of the band must be dead to be a One Hit Wonder With Dead Guys, etc., etc., etc., there will be some shifting of the goal posts across these essays. Such is life and rock ‘n roll.

Goal Post Shift 1: Big Star never got anywhere near a hit. Big Star’s singer/guitarist Alex Chilton did have a #1 – “The Letter” – with his previous band, The Box Tops, for four weeks in the summer of 1967, when he was sixteen (with a much older voice). But the closest Big Star got to the charts during their existence from 1971 – 1974 was nowhere, and the closest they got to public acclaim was in 1998, when the song “In the Street” was appropriated as the theme song of…

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