Songs From Philly, Part Three
Welcome back, loyal readers. Well ... welcome back Jonathan. Thanks for taking the time to check out the latest here at the rock ‘n roll capital of the Main Line (hahahaha)! If you have been reading recently, you know I’ve been on a jag all about Philly’s artists and songs. I love great rock ‘n roll – it is base and emotional, but when the lyrics are good, it is also emotional and moving. It can be just plain fun, it can be tragic, it can be loving, and it can do all of that while at the same time rocking you out. Here we go with Part Three of some of the best that Philly has to offer – and not all of it is rock ‘n roll per se, but it’s still wonderful. Parts One and Two are already posted – you don’t need to read them first in order for this one to make sense, but it would be cool if you read them all. Que?
Patti LaBelle “Lady Marmalade”
It’s hard to sit here in 2017 and measure an artist who was massive about 40 years ago, but doesn’t seem to get much mention in our modern era. Patti LaBelle was huge, sort of like the female version of Teddy Pendergrass. She was on the cover of Rolling Stone back when that magazine actually covered music! She has sold more than 50 million records, a number that is mind-boggling. Patti is a Philly native, and burst on the national scene with a disco song that has been in the BRP home repertoire for many years: Lady Marmalade. It’s a silly song that you can camp up quite a bit, and I’m nothing if not campy – I even own a tent! Here you go in all its glory:
Teddy Pendergrass “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”
Yes, you savvy fans know that this track was actually performed by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, but who sang lead for them? Teddy. Teddy is another Philly native who had a towering career with the Blue Notes and then an even bigger solo career. I love this song, so I dug back into the archives and decided to use it for your Philly listening pleasure. Teddy’s story has a tragic side to it as he was involved in a bad car accident in Philly that left him paralyzed from the chest down. He was a young dude, too, only in his mid-30s. Following the accident, Teddy started a foundation to assist others with spinal cord injuries, but ended up dying at age 59 in Bryn Mawr. We still remember you, man, and we have your recordings to continue to appreciate your artistry:
Modern Baseball “Your Graduation”
Let’s get back to the modern age, and there is nothing better to do so than with Modern Baseball. While it’s unclear if the band is still viable, they have put out three albums of emo/pop, punk/folk, and punk that appeals to those of us who like their rock with an edge. The song? Your Graduation is the post-teen relationship song of all songs, where you bump into the ex and go through the whole thing again in your head. Yeah, sure you miss me, bullshit! The guitars are urgent, the drums pound the angst on, and the lyrics are just fantastically brutal in their honesty and evaluation of the entire situation. Remember the teen struggles? (Are they limited to teens?) This song snaps them back into focus so intensely that it’s scary. But, yes, I like it, and the video rocks as it features shots of skateboarding, a teen obsession of BRP, from the skate park under I-95 in South Philly:
The Menzingers “Bad Catholics”
Scranton is not really a suburb of Philly. But these punkers play so often in Philly that they qualify as honorables since they were basically smart enough to associate themselves with our fair city. As you know, I love punk rock. I love the rebel heart, the snarl, the attitude, the biting lyrics, the guitar ferocity and the anarchical posture of the genre. If you tell somebody you are a punk, it means you are a bit out of step, and that you want attention so that you can tell someone to screw off. You want things changed, but you’re not absolutely sure what you want to take its place. You just know that the status quo ain’t happening for you. And you want to express that opinion in the loudest way possible. Tear it down, goddamit! Here’s a track called Bad Catholics, and man, can I relate to these lyrics about being a crappy catholic boy:
The Wonder Years “Came Out Swinging”
From Lansdale, PA, the Wonder Years have been a Philly mainstay since 2005. Basically a power pop band, they have about five albums out. Power pop/pop punk is a tradition here at BRP, and so I’ve been grooving on TWY for a while. But it wasn’t always such. In fact, I remember a running joke with Ryan. We used to use them as a reference point for bands that we had heard of but never taken the time to listen to. Then, bam, they play three consecutive sold out shows at Union Transfer. That got my lazy rear in motion. I checked them out after that, and it was all upside. Here’s a track called “Came Out Swinging” that will prove to you that power pop is one of the best every genres within the rock spectrum:
Kurt Vile and the Violators “Pretty Pimpin’”
Kurt has been around the Philly music scene for a long time now, first as lead guitarist with the War on Drugs and now as a solo artist and frontman with the Violators. How can you not like a guy who cites Pavement, Neil Young and Tom Petty as some of his biggest influences? And who has a backup band with one of the greatest names ever – wouldn’t it be cool to be a Violator? Kurt has 5 solo albums out, and his style is all over the place, from quiet acoustic-only tracks to rave-ups. The track I picked, “Pretty Pimpin’”, seems to be about aging. Or maybe mental illness. Or maybe being on drugs. Well, it’s about something, and it will make you think. It’s a somewhat spare arrangement that allows the lyrics to be front and center, but the tune still carries on and drives the song. The video is great:
Man, part three is done, but there is more. It’s like Philly is a densely populated, important American city or something. Oh yeah, that’s right, it IS one of America’s great cities, and it sports one of America’s best music scenes. Dick Clark helped to launch rock ‘n roll from Philly, and the beat has never stopped here. I will definitely be back with more, but there are other things that are grabbing my attention right now. C’mon back when you need a little BRP, and I’ll be here, like always, waiting on a friend.
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My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.