Phew, made it! I don't know about you, but it's been a long pull this week. I don't think I've had a day off in, well, months, and I'm tired. Hey, wait, don't walk away! I'll quit complaining, I promise. OK? We good? Great.
Here's a couple of songs that have been on my mind lately. I'm a huge Allman Brothers fan, and Whipping Post is just one great track. I'll let them complain rather than me!
I'm doing up a concert list to round up my buddies to see some shows, and the Jayhawks are coming to a venue very very close to Casa BRP. I'm white on rice with that show. I think the Jayhawks are great, and if you agree, you'll dig this great track:
I'm getting old and nostalgic. I remember being a freshman in high school when Boston's first album came out. My two older brothers were still in high school, too, and we drove to school together. I was always in the back seat. What kind of car? A Ford Maverick - pretty badass for high school kids, right? Yeah, well, whenever this song comes on, I'm a 15 year old kid in the back of that car again hanging out with my two older brothers. It's a pretty good memory even though I hated high school.
I have been bogged down by The Man lately, and I have felt abandoned - not just felt it, it's been true. I haven't had much time to rock. Which made me think of one of rock's great "comeback" songs: Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll. I saw LZ on the infamous 1977 tour. It should have been one of the best concerts ever. It wasn't. But this song still is amazing.
One more? Yeah, ok, you greedy people, I've got one more in me. Yes, this is one freaky video, but Royal Blood is just one amazing band. Hard to believe that only 2 guys are making all that racket, and that the guitar is a bass. I've seen them live twice and they simply grip it and rip it. Never miss them. Got it? Good, because this post will self-destruct in 10 seconds.
That's it for now. I'm going to reward myself this weekend with the treat of doing my taxes. The Man told me that would be a fun break from his ongoing torture. But I'm also going to do something that I love, which is work on some fabulous posts for your reading entertainment. I have the Teenage Fanclub show to review, and that will be up on Sunday, I promise. And I'm working on my Best Playlist Ever posts, too.
Have a good weekend, ok? And come back to hang out with me, ok? Thanks rockers. One last song in honor of doing my taxes by the best band ever.
I'm ready to party. Oh, baby, am I ready to party. What makes me fired up? Great party tunes, like this one from Joe King Carrasco:
Ever been to Vegas? Wow, what a combination of weird that place is … and I like it. If you've been, you know what song you hear everywhere, and if not, here you go - this didn't stay in Vegas:
What is more goofy, campy and catchy than the B-52s? Here's a song that will get them up and dancing. And yeah, you strumpets remember trying to emulate this one back in college, right?
Are you ready to laugh at me? Here goes: Miley Cyrus, Party in the USA! Yup, I love it and think it's super fun. And while we're at it, how about the Spice Girls? Haha, yeah, girls like to dance, I like girls, girls like Miley and the Spice Girls, so voila!
OK, back to the harlots on this one. Billy Idol took a Tommy James and the Shondells song and turned it into a dance club staple. At the meat markets, people used to sing some nasty lyrics to this one, and it was funny at the time. And it still is! This is a clean site, so I won't embellish, but just ask the guys and girls who gave it up all the time - they'll know.
Did you catch a taste of late spring recently? Me, too. And you know what? It won't be long until summer comes. Especially now that the boys are here again!
That one makes me want to jump in a car with my friends, drive around drinking beer and looking for trouble, and digging the warm night.
OK, not my strongest post, but I'm CRAZY busy right now. The Man is, well, sadistic. I'll be back with a vengeance once I get the opportunity to catch my breath. In the meantime, I'll post when I can and try to work up some things that are worthy of your time.
Devil horns, mates!
I'm tired of this. I'm tired of the death of musicians who had a big impact on my life. The latest is Roger Charlery, better known as Ranking Roger, of the English Beat and General Public fame. RR died yesterday and with him went one of Two-Tones great artists. I'm bummed.
But I'm not going to let this turn into a damn dirge. Ranking Roger, along with Dave Wakeling, put out three fantastic albums as the leaders of the English Beat: I Just Can't Stop It, Wha'ppen?, and Special Beat Service. I have all three on CD. You want to hear a great track in honor of the man himself? Try this:
How cool is that video? I've seen the English Beat countless times, but mainly with Dave Wakeling leading the group and no RR. I did see them waaaaaaay back in the day with the original lineup. Let me tell you something: these guys are one of the most fun bands you will ever see live. Their energy, great tunes and stage presence just guaranteed a good time. Here's another EB song that I absolutely love and that I still listen to with some regularity:
Ranking Roger died at 56 years old suffering from two brain tumors and lung cancer. Crap. Why do humans have to suffer through that kind of stuff? It sucks.
But in life, Ranking Roger was fantastic, a true original, brilliant and inspired. He picked ska as his artistic outlet, and the world's a better place for it. Who doesn't love ska? People that don't like to dance, I guess. Truthfully, I don't really know because if you don't like ska, I don't hang out with you. The English Beat are one of the 10 best ska bands ever, and Ranking Roger was a key part of their success.
I miss my old musical friends. I'm sorry to see them go. The world isn't quite as good today as it was yesterday. Please join me in a moment of silence to honor Ranking Roger.
Done? Me, too. If you don't know me, I have a hard time keeping quiet, so that was hard for me.
Let's get back to it, ok? Ok! One more track to celebrate what RR did with his life that made me smile, laugh, sing, dance and live. God bless you, my man.
No, you didn't happen upon a sports blog by accident. I've just been out of my mind busy, and haven't been able to post much music stuff lately. And in between a boxing outing and March Madness, well, events happened that needed to be reported.
Last night, the Virginia Tech Hokies punched their ticket to the men's Sweet Sixteen by taking down a pesky Liberty team. Tech was in the East Region but inexplicably played its first two games in San Jose, CA. They now return to the real East (Washington, DC) to face the number one seed in the tourney, Duke.
Yes, I know, Duke is amazing. They have Zion and Barrett. They are probably going to beat the Hokies. But Duke almost lost to UCF, and as I recall, the overall number one seed in last year's tournament, UVA, lost to the last team in, UMBC (I loved typing that). And, oh yeah, VT did beat Duke in the regular season. It's why they play the games.
I'll be watching and rooting for the good guys on Friday. Even if they lose, it's been a fanstastic year for the Hokies, and it's exciting that they are still among the 16 remaining teams with a shot at the national title. And if they win? I'll be back. Regardless, we can all agree that we hate Duke, right?
And speaking of national titles and VT, Mekhi Lewis, a VT wrestler, won the individual national title this weekend in the 165 pound weight class. Congrats to Mekhi.
Hey sports fans, long time, no see. Apologies for not posting lately, but my real life has been a tad overwhelming. The Man has paid his visits and wants more than just a pound of flesh. Thankfully, I have lots of help … not! Oh well, you roll with it and do your best, right?
I did take some time to go to the 2300 Arena in South Philly to see some pro boxing. Sure, sure, you don't like boxing because it's too violent. Whatever. It's hugely athletic and is probably one of the first sports known to man. I'm not hanging on everything coming out of King Sports, but I like to go to these bouts occasionally.
If you've never been to the 2300 Arena, you haven't experienced Philly. It's in a cruddy part of town surrounded a bunch of warehouses. No, no, it's not in Center City! And it's not a plush experience. Trust me on this: eat something before you go because the concession stand features that pizza that looks like it's got boxed cheese, ketchup and a tasty cardboard crust. But the 2300 Arena attracts the most diverse crowd I've ever been in - rich, poor, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, male, female, old and young: they're all there. And the fights are fun with a fast-paced environment.
You've got all the fight accoutrements: the trainers, the ringmaster, the judges, the entourages, the ring girls (who got a night off from working at Delilah's), and the funky pageantry of the fighters themselves. One guy came out with a mask covering his face, haha, and a number of them feature seriously strange boxing trunks. Most of the bouts are 4 or 6 rounds, they cover all weight classes, and the fighters are professionals but usually very new in their careers. We got to hang by friends and families of two fighters, one of whom won a tight bout and one of whom got knocked out in the first round. Oops.
Many of the fighters are local guys, but the one guy who got knocked out was from Harrisburg. If you've been to Harrisburg, you would understand why you might choose boxing as a profession. Nonetheless, this young middle-heavyweight was nicknamed "Gallito," which means many things: cocky, rowdy, bantam. It also means a joint or spliff, so there is the double entendre going. Gallito was undefeated and facing a guy who had lost 3 times. But he let down his guard right as his opponent swung heavily into his jaw, and he dropped like a rock. I've never seen a match with the need for a stretcher, but they brought one ringside. Luckily, Gallito was able to eventually pop up and strut his tail feathers, albeit well between his legs, out of the ring and the arena, a humbler and wiser spartan.
I had been traveling that week and had had about a combined 8 hours sleep for the two previous nights. While I hung in there for the boxing, I wasn't up to the traditional run to the original Tony Luke's for a late night cheesesteak after the bouts. I get the Boo of the Week for being such a wimp! I promise to do better next time. In fact, I'm going to hit Rita's on the way home, too.
Hey, I'll be back pretty soon with a rock write-up of the Teenage Fanclub show. I got snowed out of seeing the Beths - crap, are you kidding me, we have no snow all year until I want to go see a show? - and I got screwed up on the Meek Mill show and missed that. Your humble blogger has a lot of egg on his face right now. But don't go away, because I'm going to be back soon with a vengeance! Come on by whenever you get the chance and we'll hang out for a while, ok? Thanks and see you soon.
What? You want some music? Fine, I always try to accommodate. How about this - the most famous Philadelphia sports figure ever, the fictional Rocky Balboa, with the amazing Rocky theme song. Like-y, right?
What the heck was BRP doing on North Broad on a Tuesday night? If you're not from Philly, you should know that the further north you go in this fair city, the more you are likely to find yourself in a neighborhood that you should not be in. But the city is changing, and one of the big changes is the latest music venue in town, The Met.
The Met is a former opera house that got a total revamp and reopened recently as a music theater/venue. They did a great job! The facility is beautiful, and the acoustics are to die for. And even the neighborhood seems ok. Check out these venue shots including the fabulous chandelier:
I'll show you more pictures of the stage once I start talking about the real reason I ventured up North Broad. However, it's still life, and everything isn't perfect. In fact, this picture tells a very bad story:
$50 to park? Are you kidding me? Not even the Phillies, Flyers, 76ers or Eagles charge that much, and they are notorious rip-off artists. I was very happy that I took an Uber up there from Center City. (And just so you know, the theater holds a few thousand, and the Ubers are plentiful after the show, so you can park your car somewhere more reasonable and just dash in and out. That's called sticking it to The Man! And in this case, The Man is probably Live Nation, who runs the joint. I don't care much for Live Nation and their $12.50 per ticket service fees. No sir.)
Someone paid something like $45 million to renovate the Met, and it's very nice. When you pay $45 million, you need to earn it back, right? Well, the bands that are playing the Met are helping out in the cause. These are the same bands that play venues like the Tower and charge a pretty hefty ticket price to get in. You know my sweet spot is between $15-30, and you can see an awfully large number of terrific performers for that. But not at the Met. Be prepared to unhitch the wallet from that chain, and pull out twenty after twenty, my friends.
So when you've already ponied up the big bucks to see a band, and then they try to bend you over for another $50 to park? Well, I think this little sticker I recently saw on a car sums up my feelings about the whole thing:
Hahaha, who puts that on their car (other than me)? I do know a few of my friends who walk that walk, but they don't freakin' advertise it! They just pop off and let their emotions roil them up until they, well, are choking someone. This is the kind of sticker that gets you into the back of a police car even when you did nothing.
Back to the show. There was a band playing the Met on Tuesday, and it is one fine outfit. The Tedeschi Trucks Band is probably the top blues-rock band out there right now. They tour constantly, have recorded a number of albums, and they are carrying the blues-rock torch for the next generation. I hate to say that they took the torch from the Allman Brothers Band, but there are enough links that the bonds are pretty strong. Regardless, they are worthy.
Formed out of the marriage of lead guitarist Derek Trucks and lead singer Susan Tedeschi, TTB is the outgrowth of prior bands that Susan and Derek each led. They met when Susan's band was opening for the Allman Brothers, and Derek was playing slide guitar in ABB. Susan robbed the cradle (she's about 8 years older than Derek), but their marriage did not immediately result in them combining their professional lives. Come 2010, however, the two blues stalwarts finally merged, and have been on a tear since then. In the picture below, Susan is the one in the green dress:
The band features two drummers, three horns, three backup singers, a fantastic keyboard player, bass and the two guitars of Derek and Susan. It's big, packs a lot of power with that percussion-heavy rhythm section, and the players are all top-notch. You want a wall of sound? Here you go. And with a venue as acoustically stunning as the Met, you can hear it all. I was really blown away by the fact that not only could I understand the lyrics, but that I could pick out individual instruments as the band jammed. That's not typical in a live show.
Also not typical is a freaking giant in the audience. I mean this dude was HUGE. Don't believe me? Check out this picture below and look at the size of that guy in the foreground. Yowza! Thankfully, he either moved or split early so that he doesn't appear in all my pictures.
Susan has a great blues voice - powerful, but inflective and ranging through the notes with skill. She's also a damn fine guitarist in her own right, and she demonstrated that on a few tunes with some terrific solos.
Derek is a slide guitar master. He was a child prodigy, playing clubs at age 9, and ended up playing in his uncle's band (ABB). TTB makes sure to highlight his prodigious capabilities on many songs, and while they jam, they don't go crazy. No Mountain Jam or Phish-like 20 minute songs. One cool thing about Derek is that he pretty much plays the same guitar the entire night - I'm not sure how a band like Wilco, who travels with a huge case of guitars, could handle a dude like Derek.
There isn't a lot of flash or dazzle at a TTB show. They come out with 12 people on stage, each one has their space, and they jam like crazy. Susan and Derek are the center of attention, but others get their solo parts and play prominent roles in the show. I've now seen them 4 or 5 times, and they are very consistent in terms of quality of musicianship (very high), length of their show (2.5 hours with an intermission between sets), lack of an opening act (nice!), and variety of songs that they play. No TTB show is exactly alike, and they do a lot of covers, particularly in the second set and during encores. Here's a link to the setlist from Tuesday's show:
I love the song Made Up Mind, and the band played a blistering version near the end of the show - it rocked and the crowd loved it.
The audience is primarily baby boomers, but there are plenty of younger people enjoying the show, too. Expect to hang with a pretty nice group of people who enjoy a cocktail or two but don't get smashed, and who are respectful of others in the crowd. They still smoke a lot of weed, too. And they aren't afraid to stand up all night and dance and groove. Unfortunately, the boomers have money, and the competition for good seats means that you are going to pony up some dough. Oh well, at least they're nice.
We enjoyed the heck out of the evening, as we have every time we've seen TTB. They're a really good live act, and have a deep repertoire of tracks from which to draw. And it's worth emphasizing again the sheer quality of the musicians that are in this band - it is really high.
Next up for BRP? The Beths out of New Zealand. They're playing the acoustically dismal First Unitarian Church in Center City, but man, their first album is incredibly good and I'm really looking forward to that show. However, before I post about that, I'm going to rile up those who hate the sweet science because, yes, I was back in South Philly at the 2300 Arena for a night of boxing. It will be a short post, but it will be life-altering.
Thanks, as always, for stopping by and taking a break from your busy lives to hang out with me. You have no idea how cool it is to be around such a terrific group of people like the BRP regulars. If you see me at a show, stop by and say hi, and give me some feedback. In the meantime, go and enjoy your day and come on back shortly. Love ya!
I recently spent the weekend in my new second home, Houston, Texas. I know a lot of people who don’t care for Houston, and it’s warts are sort of obvious. Flat, sprawling, industrial with huge traffic problems, it’s not physically beautiful. But it’s got a lot of great attributes, too. Like the Rev. Horton Heat!
It’s one of the few places where people routinely are kind to strangers and it’s not fake. Everyone is just kind and respectful, and it’s pretty darn nice to experience. And then there is the “can do” nature of the people there. It’s just not a place where everyone bitches about their circumstance; nope, if they don’t like it, they go out and fix it. And let's face it: the food is fantastic: beef brisket BBQ! Tex-Mex par excellence!
Two of my favorite things about Texas in general are the music scene and the quirkiness of the environment. Sometimes, they line up together. I took some pictures to prove my point. First, here’s the giant armadillo that sits outside of Goode’s Co. Armadillo Palace, a nice Texas roadhouse which features fantastic BBQ across the street and a live music stage out back.
And take a look at this piano from Goode’s. Here’s a short list of who has banged on that keyboard: Joan Armatrading; Marcia Ball; Count Basie; Dave Brubeck; Ray Charles; Commander Cody; Fats Domino; Donald Fagen; Dr. John; Jerry Lee Lewis; Taj Mahal; Barry Manilow; Art Neville; Leon Russell; and Randy Newman.
While I’m sure that there are some new-ager types that have Buddhas in their gardens, you’re a lot more likely to see the Virgin done in garish Mexican style. Here’s a bunch for sale down in the Mexican market - take that you new agers!
There is a whole thing going on in Houston regarding art cars. There’s an entire museum devoted to them, but you can see them around town, too. Here’s one that sits in the funky, gentrifying neighborhood of the Heights. It’s painted like crazy on the outside, but check out the interior – wholly crap, what is that all about? I don’t know but it’s crazy fun:
And here’s another one in training:
Art deco music palace? Check! Joe Ely just played the joint. Hey, the Heights in Houston is happening - new housing, restaurants and bars popping up literally everywhere. Gentrification for sure, and the cool part is that, because there are no zoning laws, stuff happens fast and is eclectic. It may not be for everybody, but what is? I like it. Oh, and the new HEB is badass!
Finally, it wouldn’t be Texas if there wasn’t a cowboy boot somewhere. Here’s a planter in the shape of a cowboy boot complete with a state of Texas flag motif:
And who the heck is this guy?
Man, writing this makes me want some chips and salsa bad. Or maybe some brisket, slaw and mac ‘n cheese? I’ve got to run and get some chow – yes, right now! Y’all have a good evening, and come on back soon, y’ hear?
I know that I was light on the pictures for the Interpol show. What did you expect? I felt like I was showing the same picture over and over. Well, get ready for some damn shots in this post: St. Paul and the Broken Bones are in the house!
The South has always put out a disproportionate share of great rock musicians. Nonetheless, I’m not aware that Birmingham, Alabama is a hotbed of musical talent. I know it as a city famous for Jim Crow and some of the most vicious civil rights atrocities; steel; Dr. James Andrews, orthopedist to every famous athlete over the last 50 years; and that’s about it. I’m sure it’s now a perfectly pleasant place except during the Iron Bowl.
But St. Paul and the Broken Bones hails from Birmingham, and whoa, did the city fathers jam some remarkable talent into this outfit. I was recently reading an article about Joe Ely in Texas Music and he was discussing how hard it is to put together a hot band, but once one is formed, how killer that band can be night after night. While he didn’t mention SPBB, he might have been thinking of them. Hot band? The stage was sparking all night. Three kick ass horns, organ/keys, and the guitar/bass/drums essentials – these guys clearly play a lot together and they feed off of each other. I didn’t hear a missed note the entire evening.
And then there is Paul Janeway.
I don’t think I’ve seen a band that put up its vocalist so front and center, and I don’t mean just as a performer but as an asset that defines the entire outfit. And for good reason. There are many fine singers out there for sure, but this guy is in a different hemisphere. His dynamic range is huge, his inflection and delivery are born not made, and if there was ever a white dude who can sing soul like this guy, I want to see him. Paul is the real deal. A “must see” in my not-so-humble opinion.
And, BRP ALERT!!!, he’s a showman, too. The band comes out on stage except for Paul. They warm up the crowd for a minute of two and then Paul comes out in a sparkly gold cape looking like the guy from the Verizon commercials (can you hear me now?). He struts, he poses, he is all over the stage, and he belts out sweet soul and R&B like you wouldn’t believe. I have to check and see if he sang gospel music during his upbringing because this voice is from God.
SPBB has three albums out, and they generously played great songs from their entire output. Ryan thought that Paul’s voice may be a limiting factor in the type of music they can play, and I know what he means, but man, you also have to love what they are doing in that space. When this band decided to lay down a groove, the entire crowd was up and swaying to the music. You just couldn’t help yourself. After seeing Interpol sleepwalk through their show the night before, these guys were a reaffirmation about how good live music can be.
I can’t remember how SPBB came into my orbit. But I had heard that they were great live, and since I could save about $400 flying down to Florida on Sunday rather than Saturday, I decided to save the money and spend just a wee bit of those savings to see SPBB. I’m patting myself on the back with that good choice. Here’s a video that might give you a sense of what you missed on Saturday night:
The show was at the Fillmore. You might remember that I’ve carped about the parking situation around the Fillmore, but I cadged a great spot on Columbus Avenue right across from the Sugar House Casino and Preview of Hell, and saved myself $20. The venue itself is cool – about half the size of the Anthem in DC, it’s much more intimate but still big enough to grab some top-shelf talent. It was sold out. And the crowd was older, too, which was fine with me. I didn’t see anyone texting for half the show like I did at millennial central in DC. People were fired up for a good show, including two women behind me who didn’t STFU the whole time, but they were having fun and I’m nothing if not mellow and non-judgmental.
I’m going to comment on crowds just for a second. In the last 6 weeks, I’ve been to shows in 3 different geographies: SoFla, DC and Philly. SoFla crowds are party-hearty like in the 70s with a bit more redneck flavor than I’m used to and women who like to dress to kill. It feels like a southern frat party. DC is text messages, beards and people who are buttoned down in terms of their effusion during a show. It feels like you’re on the Hill waiting to see someone with an inflated view of themselves. Philly is the best: fun loving, partying, but musically sophisticated and diverse. Ugly, too, but hey, that’s not bad if you’re decent looking as you stand out in the crowd, haha. Is it fair to draw conclusions about entire music scenes and people who inhabit a city from just one show in each town? Nope, not at all. But it’s BRP!
Back to SPBB. If you get the chance, go see them live. They are hot and talented. They are grateful that you are helping to feed their families. They don’t sound like many other bands out there. And Paul is a gift from God who shouldn’t be missed. You’ll have fun.
What’s next? I have another show in February at Philly’s newest venue, The Met. I’m interested in seeing the theater and will report back on the good and the bad. Who am I seeing? It’s my annual Tedeschi Trucks Band show, so the music will be good. After that, it’s a couple more shows in March. But here on BRP, it might also include the next installment in the Ultimate Rock Playlist. And a photo montage from my new second home. Those are the carrots that I’m dangling – check back soon and see what heresies I’m committing and spit like a pissed off llama as you read through my trite posts. Here’s your consoling thought: just be thankful that you don’t have to live inside of my head, ok? I’m sick of putting up with that bunghole, too. With that, I’m outta here and you should be as well.
I love rock ‘n’ roll road trips. There’s nothing like throwing a t-shirt and ragged pair of jeans into the car and driving off with the sole intent of seeing a great rock show. I’ve always liked driving and road trips anyway. As a kid, my parents used to subject us to lengthy rides to far off places, like Massachusetts, to go see relatives. The car ride was sometimes the best part. I never got used to wearing an ill-fitting hand-me-down suit for the sole purpose of seeing some grizzled old aunt whose home smelled of disinfectant and who was praying for me to get a Catholic vocation. Ha! Fat chance of that happening – the world of rock music, girls, drugs and liquor beckoned, not the world of Spotlight.
Anyway, back to rock road trips. My most recent adventure took place last Friday. I had to leave work early to drive to DC to meet a fellow rocker and go see Interpol. Yes, you are correct that Interpol tours all over the US, including Philly, and that it would have been much easier to see them here. That was my original intent, but then they decided to come to Philly when I was somewhere else and I missed them. Bummed out by that denial, I did what true rockers do all the time – I got on their website to check and see if they were playing anywhere close. Lo and behold, they were playing in DC.
It must have been a different tour or something, because the show was about 5 months after the Philly one. Oh well, I bought tickets and set them aside. I didn’t consider that the show was over President’s Day weekend (I am personally celebrating Warren G. Harding this year – next year, it’s Chester Arthur – because why should Washington and Lincoln get all the props?). There I was with a couple of tickets, but because Florida is just so choice this time of year, Helen was out of here and not joining me. I needed a running mate, and I found one. Cool!
I was driving down I-95 after a week of supreme oppression by The Man, but I was ready to freakin’ rock! I put on Spotify and jammed heavily the whole way down. Now, remember that I grew up in the DC area and I still have a very soft spot in my heart for that beautiful city. But damn, the traffic! It took me 4 hours to get there (normally 2.5 will do the trick) and people drive like crap there. Yup, even those without New York plates on their cars. I was chill (ok, sort of chill) and made it in time to catch a nice meal and go rock.
But Interpol was coming up. A business colleague in Houston told me he saw them and they were “surprisingly good.” Hey, first off, I like Interpol so what’s with that “surprisingly” comment? Secondly, it was Friday in the Nation’s Capital and I was going to ROCK. What could go wrong? These guys are from the heavily competitive rock scene in New York, home to Amazon’s HQ2 (hahahahahahaha, how’s that humble pie tasting, Big Crapple?). They’ll be great!!!
Interpol came out in a shower of lights and … well … stood there for a few hours and played their songs. They had amazing lights. Strobes, disco ball, LEDs that changed colors. Man, they had LIGHTS. I was so inspired that I kept thinking about next year’s Christmas display. I like lights (although strobes sometimes make me feel like I’ve been out with my dad on one of those crappy head boats bobbing in the ocean for 4 hours and pulling up maybe one undersized flounder the whole time). I like loud music. I like the crowd and the atmosphere. But what I really like is a band that remembers that they are PERFORMERS.
I remember seeing the Cars back in the day, and Ric Ocasek was a stander. No affectation at all. It was like his feet were glued to the floor. Well, Interpol must have seen that same show and thought, “This is the best rock show ever, the epitome of a live performance.” Rather than looking at video of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee, Jagger, Queen, AC/DC or whomever, they watched the Cars. It got to be B-O-R-I-N-G. If you put on an Interpol album and stare at the pictures in this post, you’ll have about 85% of the experience. If you do it in the dark with a strobe light popping and making you feel queasy, you’re there and I’ve saved you about $40. BRP readers, I’m all about value and service, yes indeed, so you’re welcome.
One more “oops” to talk about. Yes, Interpol played all their best songs, which is cool because I like them enough to score tickets 5 months in advance and drive down I-95 on a Friday afternoon to see them. I particularly like Obstacle 1, which they killed, and Say Hello to the Angels. The latter features some tempo shifts, and is probably pretty hard to get just right on stage. Interpol proved that it was difficult because they had a couple of tempo shits, um, shifts, in that song that made me cringe. C’mon, that’s one of your biggest songs and you aren’t ready to smack it out of the park and into the Potomac? Ugh.
Did I hate the show? No, it falls into the “good, not great” category. They did, after all, play all the songs I wanted to hear, and they did a good job with most of them. There was no idle time chit chat, no political grandstanding, no terrible songs from the new album. They played a few hours and gave you your money’s worth. But it could have been much better and the more shows I go to see, the more I lament the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” situation. I’m glad I saw them so that I know not to go see them again. “Surprisingly good?” Nope, “surprisingly average” is more like it.
Onward and upward. I drove home from Philly on Saturday morning, made it in 2.5 hours, and was put on the rack by The Man for another 4 hour Saturday shift. Whenever I walk into the room, The Man cues up this song and waylays me:
But The Man can’t bring me down all the way because guess who’s in town? St. Paul and the Broken Bones at the Fillmore. Oh baby, now THAT was a show. Check back soon for the review and in the meantime, send me your comments on the first installment of the Ultimate Rock Playlist. You know I love you, and not just on Warren G. Harding Day or Cinco de Mayo, right? On a rock scale, my love is turned up to 11!
As I used to say in the 70s, 80s and 90s, take it easy.
Welcome back – if you are wondering why I’m doing a rock playlist, scroll down. It explains it all. If you’ve already read that post, go get yourself a cold beverage so that you can spill it as you, like Ignatius J. Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces, recoil in horror from the crapola to which you are soon going to be subjected.
Let’s start with early rock. These are the pioneers and showmen who put down the first electric riffs and figured out the music of youth. One thing that will quickly come through is that rock is an American art form, and maybe even a Southern American art form. Yes, others, particularly those from other English-speaking lands, will later adopt rock, and some will achieve iconic status on Mt. Olympus, but at the base, they’re playing American music. And therefore, this list of early rock songs is full of people from the good ol’ U.S. of A.
Chuck Berry, Maybellene and Johnny B. Goode. Don’t you love this? I violate the “one song, one band” thing in the first entry. There is a pretty compelling argument that all rock ‘n’ roll flows from Chuck Berry forward. His guitar riffs are still being ripped off (Johnny B. Goode in particular), and his carousing about the stage defined the role of guitar hero well before that was a term. When Chuck died, the legions of guitarists who followed him lined up in homage to the early master of the art form. (And women everywhere were able to sleep easier, too.) Maybellene is one of the very first rock ‘n’ roll songs and embodies everything truly great about the genre: the beat, the cars, the girls. And Johnny B. Goode was not ripped off from Marty McFly. Just listen to that guitar! That piano! And fun lyrics, too! Look at those guitar moves! Hoo-boy!
Buddy Holly, That’ll Be The Day. Out of West Texas came a four-eyed skinny white kid who wrote some of rock’s best early music, and influenced tons of others. His band’s name, The Crickets, inspired other bands to name themselves after insects (although cleverly misspelling the word). He was tragically killed in a plane crash at a very young age, but he left behind some bouncy, poppy rock gems that still sound great. This is one of his best.
Elvis Presley, Jailhouse Rock and Hound Dog. Hoo-boy, here is the King. The legend is currently being tarnished, with people accusing him of being a cultural appropriator: a white dude out of Mississippi playing black music to a white audience. Which explains why Hound Dog was written by two white Jewish guys, right? I really don’t care what he did. All I know is that he went to Sun Records in Memphis, was put on the shelf for a year or two, and finally was picked up by Sam Phillips. The rest is history. An amazing voice, great moves on stage, movie star good lucks, a genuine small town dude, and a tragic modern-day Greek tragedy, Elvis was HUGE. He still is: go to Memphis and see for yourself. I picked these two tracks because they both rock and they were both massive hits that reverberated through the culture. In fact, I’ve seen bands cover these songs recently. And the University of Miami even adopted Jailhouse Rock as their football team’s theme song.
Carl Perkins, Blue Suede Shoes. Another Memphis/Sun Records track that blew people away. Perhaps the first rockabilly song ever, it has country and blues mixed. Is there a better start than “One for the money/two for the show/three to get ready/now go, man go!”? This song rips.
Little Richard, Tutti Frutti. "A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-lop-bom-bom!" Little Richard had to make the list. Along with Jerry Lee Lewis, these guys defined the role of rock ‘n’ roll piano front man. This song is loud, has an unbelievable beat, and was performed by one of rock’s true genius’s, the screaming nutbag from Georgia known as Little Richard. I wish I could have seen him live.
Eddie Cochran, Summertime Blues. It’s true that I prefer Blue Cheer’s cover of this song, but Eddie wrote it, played it and rocked it. It’s a classic summertime track that has been covered by tons of big-name artists, and is still performed by cover bands throughout the land. It’s about a teen’s struggle with everything: parents, The Man and even his congressman! EC did it in rockabilly fashion, and it’s an all-time great American summertime song.
Jerrie Lee Lewis, Great Balls of Fire. Another rocker who wasn’t a particularly nice dude, but who was a wild man on stage and blew minds. In fact, his antics would STILL blow minds 70 years later. Another song from Sun Records, this one is just incredible. Pounding on the keys, great guitar, intensity and spirit. Wow!
Ray Charles, What’d I Say. Ray was MASSIVE. One of the original crossover talents, this guy’s skills just couldn’t be kept inside the R and B charts. If you can put this song on and not dance your tushy off, you are dead. Simple lyrics, American to its core, great piano, call ‘n response vocals … what more do you want?
Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley. You want rock guitar and beat? This is it. And the damn song is so good that he named it after HIMSELF! Just think what this would sound like with modern production techniques? They would have to peal you off of the ceiling. I love rock ‘n’ roll, and this song is rock to its core. RIP Bo.
Fats Domino, Ain’t It A Shame. Pat Boone covered this song. Pat Boone! How crossover is that? It’s a fabulous song with heartbreak lyrics, and it pushed Fats to the top of the charts, not an easy thing to do for a black guy in 1955.
Del Shannon, Runaway. Helping to define teen angst everywhere, this track is fantastic. I don’t really know what else Del Shannon did, but man, did he knock the ball over the wall with this one. Catchy, using a falsetto voice for the “la la la’s”, and allowing teens everywhere to feel his lovesick pain, this is one great tune. The organ is also very cool and a forebear for things that came later.
Isley Brothers, Shout. If there is an overlooked band in the land, it has to be the Isley’s. Eric Isley schooled Jimi Hendrix on how to play the guitar, and this song is still played at nearly every wedding, mitzvah, and cross-generational social gathering in the US. We all know what to do from the scene in Animal House, but how good is this song? Break it down bit by bit, and it’s amazing. Call and response vocals? Got ‘em. Fast to slow to fast again? Check. Danceable? Eminently. Part of the social fabric of the entire country? Yes again. And the original is the best version, bar none.
Everly Brothers, Wake Up Little Susie. I’m not a huge Everly Brothers fan, but it’s hard to underestimate the influence these guys had over their contemporaries. Big on vocal harmonies, singing songs about girls, and with a pop sensibility ahead of their time, they laid down the folk-rock cornerstone that would come to define later musicians who sit at the pinnacle of the rock pantheon.
Wilbert Harrison, Kansas City. Every time I go to a blues bar featuring a cover band, I request this song. And every time, the band willingly plays it as it is already built into their repertoire. I remember being in New Orleans at some bar, and the band was just coming back from a break. The lead singer said, “guess what we’re gonna play?” and The Kid shouted “Kansas City!” It was one of my best moments ever because they just tore into it and we danced and shouted along with the lyrics. “Hey, hey, hey, hey!” Wilbert Harrison – from North Carolina – was just badass with this tune.
Link Wray, Rumble. If you want to hear what rock guitar would ultimately become, this is your starting point. I was introduced to Link Wray my freshman year in college – yup, two years ago – and listened to him and Robert Gordon just light up the rockabilly night. But this song! Wow. A menacing guitar growling along with vibrato and feedback and soul and depth and danger. Hide your daughters!
Bill Haley and the Comets, Rock Around The Clock. Overexposed during the lengthy run of the Happy Days TV show, this is one of early rock’s legendary tunes. There is a reason they picked this one to play at the start of that show. It is tuneful, features a peppy and danceable track, and has easy to sing lyrics that stick in your head after one listen.
Danny and the Juniors, At The Hop. I never went to a sock-hop dance, but it was just a high school dance without shoes. This song is a tribute to that scene, but it’s more than that. It’s early rock at its best, transitioning from big band era popular music to rock. Doo wop!
Big Bopper, Chantilly Lace Have you ever flirted on the telephone (or maybe done more than that)? That’s this tune in a nutshell. The Big Bopper was an early rock star on the rocket ship to fame and this was his calling card. He died in the same plane crash as Buddy Holly and Richie Valens, a terrible “three fer” that was the day the music died. Rock it out with this.
Bobby Freeman, Do You Want to Dance The Kid loves to dance. This is a theme song to that love. Who the heck is Bobby Freeman? I don’t know much about him, but this song has been covered and covered and covered. The Beach Boys, Bette Midler, John Lennon, T. Rex, Neil Young, Ash, Dave Edmunds and … wait for it … The Ramones! They all knew a great rock song when they heard it, and this is a great rock song.
Champs, Tequila. Songs about alcohol are always popular, but this one took it to another level. Lyrics? Just sing “tequila!” at the right time, and you’re in. But the big horns, rhythm guitar hooks, and danceable riff makes it a classic. You can still hear it all over the place, particularly on Cinco de Mayo when Americans honor the Mexican nation by trivializing it and getting rip-snorting drunk. I celebrate Cinco de Mayo differently.
Crests, 16 Candles. Haha, when this song was written, the age of consent was probably about 14 nationwide. It’s actually kind of creepy now to listen to a song from an older guy celebrating his girlfriend’s 16th birthday – older dudes always preyed on younger girls when I was growing up, and here’s their theme song. So why include it? Because rock was, in the very beginning, aimed at teenagers. And I had to put in a slow song one of these times, and this is probably the best of the bunch.
Dion, Runaround Sue and The Wanderer. Dion gets two songs? Yup. Why? Because they are amazing. One song about a tom cat’s kitten and one about a male slut, these babies foresaw the era of free love and all the troubles that would bring. But they’re also poppy, make you want to sing and shout, and they’ll get you dancing. Believe it or not, I’ve seen Dion live on few different occasions (other than Chuck Berry, the only performer on this list that I got see bring it), and he was a great performer to boot. Yup, Dion gets two songs.
Muddy Waters, I Just Want To Make Love To You. This one is kind of unusual to put here. I like Muddy Waters, but he’s one of those blues guys that helped in the gestation period of early rock. In other words, he’s not considered a rock ‘n’ roller himself. But this track has all of what makes rock great: lusty lyrics, blues-based guitar, snappy delivery. Foghat would later cover this tune to greater acclaim, but the original bears witness to what rock would become once it became dangerous.
The Coasters, Yakety Yak. Being hassled by your parents, the first “The Man” you’ll encounter in your lifetime, is a teenage lament shared by all. This song captures that experience with wit and humor, and adds a beat to which you can dance. Perfecto!
Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Why Do Fools Fall In Love. Frankie Lymon had about 5 wives at once or something, but he also could croon like a bird and was an inspiration to the Motown/soul music that would explode across the land in the 60s. This is their best song. Go do some research and tell me I'm wrong.
James Brown, Please Please Please. I know, this isn’t my favorite song by JB either. And we’ll be back to see him more when we get to the 60s. But this is the Godfather of Soul, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, and he deserves multiple places for recognition. Of course he is from the South, and of course he had a background in gospel, JB turned out to be one of the most influential performers of the entire rock era. And while not my favorite track, this one is pretty stinkin’ good. Enjoy.
Jackie Brenston, Rocket 88. This song was recorded in 1951. If it isn’t the first rock song, what is? Listen to that boogie woogie piano, the great horns, and he’s singing about his car! I remember telling someone that songs about girls and cars are about as rock ‘n’ roll bedrock as you can get. This song is soooo groovin’! If you walked into a bar and the band was blowing this one out, you would quickly order a double, grab a place to dump your coat, and head straight to the dance floor where you would camp for about 4 hours.
Richie Valens, La Bamba. I love this song. I once asked a Spanish-speaking colleague (who didn’t like rock) what it meant, and she scoffed and said it was nonsense. Perfect! All I know is that it has a great beat, wonderful clean guitar licks, and is the first crossover track for Hispanic rockers of which I am aware. Los Lobos would later cover it and make a ton of money from that effort. This original is packed with rock spirit.
Go ahead: rip me because I just covered 10 years in about 25 songs. That’s stupid and ridiculous, right? We are agreed. And it’s even more whacko given that I’ve been watching some shows featuring early rockers recently, and here is what strikes me: they were crazy good performers, they knew their audience and how to make them go bonkers, and they all fed off of the amazing post-war energy that was consuming America’s youth. Still, it’s hard to believe that adult contemporaries thought that this music was the work of the devil and evil incarnate (wait until they see what the 60s had in store!), but it was quite a leap from Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, that’s for sure.
Let me just say this: There’s a lot to like in this list and much of it transcends the years. We’ll start digging in to the next phases of rock genres in the next post. Let’s be thankful for these pioneers, many of whom are deceased. While a number of them were scoundrels in their personal lives, their music hit a spot that resonated with young people around the globe, and whose reverberations continue to this day. God bless ‘em. And God bless America, which gave the world this amazing musical form.
Check back soon for the next post in this series. And to see a couple of live music reviews, starting with Interpol at the Anthem in DC.
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.