Cover art for Linus of Hollywood's "A Girl That I Like".
Kevin Dotson (born March 4, 1973) was born in Omaha, Nebraska and spent his formative years in Florida. He learned to play guitar at age five, and later learned to play bass, drums, and piano. When Dotson was twenty-one, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music. By mid-1995, he formed the punk-pop band Size 14 (named after his shoe size). This band released an well-received album on Volcano Records in 1997. When the band broke up in 1998, Dotson began his solo career. He released his first solo album, “Your Favorite Record”, in August 1999. The album was recorded in Dotson’s bedroom recording studio and was held in high regard by most critics. His second album, “Let Yourself Be Happy” (2001), was generally not received as favorably as his first album, but received mostly favorable reviews. Dotson turned to production, producing such artists as Paul Gilbert, Bowling for Soup and Charlatans U.K. In October 2006, he released his third album, “Triangle”. He followed it up with two compilation albums: “Attractive Singles” (2008), which combined previously released tracks with some new ones and “Reheat and Serve” (2008), which contains twelve previously unreleased tracks. His next release was “A Girl That I Like”, a digital single released in March 2011. This is today’s featured single.
“A Girl That I Like” delivers what we have come to expect from Dotson: a delicately beautiful melody, accompanied by guileless lyrics: “There’s a girl that I like/ And she’s coming by at 12/Until then I’ll be countin’ down the time/And we’ve kissed a few times/I’m not sure what it means/But ever since, she’s always on my mind”. Dotson claims he wrote the song for a girlfriend, who once texted him, asking, “What are you doing?” He replied “I’m texting with a girl that I like”, and proceeded to use that as the title for a song, which he wrote in about fifteen minutes. “It just really captured a moment and a feeling.” Like many of Dotson’s compositions, “A Girl That I Like” is a heartrending, well-crafted pop song, one that has this fan looking forward to his next full-length album.
Cover for Yo La Tengo's "Tom Courtenay" single.
Yo La Tengo was formed in 1984 in Hoboken, New Jersey by the husband-wife duo of Ira Kaplan (guitar, vocals) and Georgia Hubley (drums, vocals). They were soon joined by Dave Schramm (lead guitar) and Dave Rick (bass). This lineup recorded the single “The River of Water” b/w “A House Is Not a Motel”, released in November 1985. Soon afterward, Rick left the band and was replaced by Mike Lewis (ex-DMZ and Lyres). The band signed with Coyote Records, who issued the band’s debut album, “Ride the Tiger” (1986). Both Schramm and Lewis soon left the band. Kaplan took over lead guitar duties, and Stephan Wichnewski was recruited to play bass. This lineup recorded “New Wave Hot Dogs” (1987), an album that sold poorly but represented a step forward for the band, with a harder-rocking sound than on their first album. “President Yo La Tengo” (1989) was a critical success, but sold poorly, and was their last album on Coyote Records. It was also Wichnewski’s last album with the band, as he quit soon afterward. Yo La Tengo continued as a duo for a time, but Kaplan and Hubley reunited with Schramm for the band’s fourth album, “Fakebook” (1990), released on Bar None Records. They also released the “This Is Yo La Tengo” EP (1991), after which James McNew joined the band on bass, forming the lineup that has continued to this day. The band switched to Alias Records for “May I Sing with Me” (1992). In 1993, Yo La Tengo signed with Matador Records and released “Painful” (1993), a creative shift for the band, with more atmospheric and ambient sounds. Their next album was “Electr-O-Pura” (1995); the first single from the album was “Tom Courtenay”. This is today’s featured single.
“Tom Courtenay” is one of the more infectious pop songs Yo La Tengo has written; the nostalgic lyrics, evoking Swinging London (“Julie Christie, the rumors are true/As the pages turn, my eyes are glued/To the movie star and his sordid life/Mr. X and his old-suffering wife”), punctuated by a catchy guitar melody. But the song never becomes a conventional pop tune, lacking a standard verse-chorus-verse structure (there is no chorus), and the lead vocals eventually become overtaken by the silly “ba-ba-ba” backing vocals. Eventually, the song dissolves into a mixture of feedback, distortion and noise, but it’s the catchy hooks and melody that helped turn “Tom Courtenay” into a minor hit.
The Digipak “Tom Courtenay” single also contains three non-album tracks: “Treading Water”, “Bad Politics”, and “My Heart’s Reflection (Take 3)”. “Treading Water” is an ethereal, moody almost-psychedelic piece, with Georgia Hubley contributing the lead vocals, with rather subdued drum-playing. “Bad Politics”, on the other hand, is a punk-sounding song in which the amps are cranked to eleven and the feedback and distortion seem to be maximized. “My Heart’s Reflection (Take 3)” is a restrained song, with Kaplan almost whispering his vocals over a soft guitar melody. None of these songs are as essential as “Tom Courteney”, but all are worth a listen.
The single (catalog #: OLE 139-2) was released on Matador Records.”Electr-O-Pura” was the first album on which songs were credited to all members, which would become the norm for future releases. The band would follow it up with “I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One” (1997), one of Yo La Tengo’s most critically acclaimed albums. Next came “And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out” (2000), an album of subdued art-pop songs.
Picture sleeve for Oingo Boingo's "Dead Man's Party" single.
Oingo Boingo was formed in 1972 as The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo by Richard Elfman, and was a musical theater troupe in the tradition of Spike Jones and Frank Zappa. This version of the group contained as many as fifteen members, but the core personnel were Elfman, Leon Schneiderman (saxophone) and Sam “Sluggo” Phipps (saxophone, clarinet). They were soon joined by Richard Elfman’s brother, Danny Elfman (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, percussion) and Dale Turner (trumpet, trombone). Few recordings of this period exist, although they did release a novelty record about the Patty Hearst kidnapping called “You Got Your Baby Back”. By 1976, Richard Elfman turned his attention to filmmaking, and leadership of the band shifted to Danny Elfman. That same year, the band appeared on “The Gong Show”, avoiding being gonged and scoring 24 out of a possible 30 points. They also appeared in the movie “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden”.
By 1979, the band had added Steve Bartek (lead guitar), John “Vatos” Hernandez (drums) and Kerry Hatch (bass) to the lineup. Richard Gibbs (keyboards) joined the band in 1980, making the band an octet. In October 1979, Oingo Boingo released a demo EP, limited to 130 pressings for radio stations and A&R representatives. The band signed with I.R.S. Records and released their first official release in September 1980, the “Oingo Boingo” EP, released in both 10-inch and 12-inch formats. The success of this EP led to the band signing with A&M Records, who released their first full-length album, “Only a Lad” (1981). They released their second album “Nothing to Fear” the following year. Their next album, “Good for Your Soul” (1983), was their last album on A&M Records, and also their last album with Richard Gibbs. The band signed with MCA Records and made two personnel shifts: Mike Bacich took over for Richard Gibbs, and John Avila replaced departing Kerry Hatch. They released their fourth album, “Dead Man’s Party” (1985), and released two singles from the album: “Weird Science” and “Dead Man’s Party” b/w “Stay”. This is today’s featured single.
“Dead Man’s Party” is a song with an interesting, minor-key melody, accentuated by interesting percussion and, as always, Oingo Boingo’s horn section. The band’s quirky sense of humor is in evidence in the song’s lyrics: “I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go/Walkin’ with a dead man over my shoulder/Waiting for an invitation to arrive/Goin’ to a party where no one’s still alive”. About 3 minutes and 50 seconds into the track, there is an instrumental break with a tuneful keyboard solo. Overall, the track is a good example of the tighter, more commercial sound manifest on the parent album, which made “Dead Man’s Party” a good candidate for Oingo Boingo’s true breakthrough album.
The B-side of the single, “Stay”, is another track from the parent album, “Dead Man’s Party”, and is driven by a catchy guitar riff, punctuated as always by the horn section, and with somewhat more melodic percussion than on the other tracks. The lyrical content enhances the song: “This is not the first time–You had to get away/This is not a party–Where people know your name/This is not a classroom–With teacher at the board/This is not a cat show–With prizes at the door”. The protagonist may not be able to spell out what his relationship with his significant other is, but at least he knows what it isn’t. “Stay” is a worthwhile track and further evidence of the evolution of the band’s sound. The song was also used as the theme music for the Brazilian soap opera “Top Model”.
The single (catalog #: MCA-23638) was released on MCA Records with a picture sleeve. There was also a 12-inch version of the single with extended mixes of both songs. The band released “Boi-ngo” (1987), which was not a major hit, and subsequently replaced Bacich with new keyboardist Carl Graves. They released “Boingo Alive” (1988), a two disc set containing versions of their older songs re-created on a soundstage without a live audience and several previously unreleased tracks. They next released their sixth studio album, “Dark at the End of the Tunnel” (1990). The band was then dropped by MCA and signed with Giant Records. Graves was dropped from the lineup, and the band added Warren Fitzgerald (guitar), Marc Mann (keyboards) and Doug Lacy (accordian). This lineup recorded “Boingo” (1994), an album which contains some of the longest songs in the Oingo Boingo catalog. The band broke up in 1995 following a final Halloween concert at the Universal Amphitheatre.
Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lover's "Roadrunner" single.
Jonathan Richman was born on May 16, 1951 in Natick, Massachusetts and began playing and writing his own music in the mid-1960s. He became infatuated with the Velvet Underground, and in 1969 moved to New York City and lived on the couch of their manager, Steve Sesnick (later moving to the Hotel Albert), worked odd jobs, and tried to break into the music industry. Having failed at that, he moved back to Massachusetts. In Boston, Richman formed The Modern Lovers. Also in the band were guitarist John Felice, bass player Rolfe Anderson, and drummer David Robinson (later of The Cars). In 1971, both Anderson and Felice left the band and were replaced by bassist Ernie Brooks and keyboardist Jerry Harrison (later of Talking Heads). In April 1972, The Modern Lovers went to Los Angeles and recorded two demo sessions: the first for John Cale (ex-Velvet Underground) and the second for A&M Records. In early 1973, the band was signed by Warner Bros., but by the end of the year, Richman wanted to scrap their recorded tracks and start anew with a mellower, more lyrical sound. As a result, Warner Bros. withdrew their support and the original Modern Lovers broke up in February 1974. In 1975, Richman moved to California to record as a solo artist with Beserkley Records. Several of his tracks appeared on the “Beserkley Chartbusters” (1975) compilation LP. In January 1976, Richman put together a new lineup of The Modern Lovers, with Greg “Curly” Keranen on bass, Leroy Radcliffe on guitar, and David Robinson returning on drums. Two albums were released in 1976: “The Modern Lovers”, which consisted of material recorded by the previous incarnation of the band (with six of the nine tracks taken from the John Cale sessions), and “Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers”, recorded by the new version of the band. In 1977, a single from the first album reached #11 in the U.K.: “Roadrunner (Once)” b/w “Roadrunner (Twice)”. This is today’s featured single.
“Roadrunner” is a garage rock classic, one that features three chords (D and A, and only two bars of E), and, by most accounts, is a nod to the Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray”. Supposedly, Richman wrote the song by 1970, and began performing it in public. John Felice recalled the original inspiration for the song: as teenagers he and Richman “used to get in the car and just drive up and down Route 128 and the Turnpike. We’d come up over a hill and he’d see the radio towers, the beacons flashing, and he would get almost teary-eyed. He’d see all this beauty in things where other people just wouldn’t see it.” The can be thought of as almost a one-chord song, as it leans very heavily on D throughout the song, which in some ways is more of a chant, a Chuck Berry/Bo Diddley-style rock anthem. The lyrics almost seem to be improvised: “Gonna drive past the Stop ‘n’ Shop/With the radio on/I’m in love with Massachusetts/And the neon when it’s cold outside”, and there are slight differences between the lyrics in this version and the ones in “Roadrunner (Twice)”. The lyrics also seem somewhat nonsensical, suggesting that the content is of secondary importance. Nevertheless, the song has an endearing quality, with it’s introductory count off (“One, two, three, four, five six!”), and its lyrical refrain of “radio on”. “Roadrunner (Once)”, recorded in late 1974, stands as one of the great precursors to punk rock; ironically, by the time this song was released, Richman had moved on to more laid-back, acoustic music.
The B-side of the single, “Roadrunner (Twice)”, is the version of “Roadrunner” that was recorded at the Cale sessions in 1972 (and had been previously released on “The Modern Lovers” LP, entitled “Roadrunner”). This version is considered by many to be the stronger take, with Richman sounding someone more passionate and less disaffected than on the 1974 version. (This version was also released on the “Berserkley Chartbusters” LP.) Although the A-side is the better-known of the two, both takes are worth a listen.
The single (catalog #: BZZ 1) was released in June 1977. The Modern Lovers subsequently released “Rock ‘n’ Roll with the Modern Lovers” (1977), “Modern Lovers ‘Live’” (1978), and “Back in Your Life” (1979). The band subsequently broke up, after which Richman took a sabbatical before forming a new Modern Lovers lineup in 1980. This lineup released “Jonathan Sings!” (1983), after which the band broke up again. Richman again formed a new lineup up the band, releasing “Rockin’ and Romance” (1985) and “Modern Lovers 88” (1988) before retiring the moniker Modern Lovers and embarking on a “true” solo career.
The Feelies' "Everybody's Got Something to Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)" single.
The Feelies were formed in Haledon, New Jersey in 1976 when Glenn Mercer (guitars, vocals), Bill Million (guitars, vocals, keyboards), Dave Weckerman (percussion), and Richard Reilly (vocals) began playing together in a band called the Outkids. The Outkids evolved into the Feelies with the departure of Reilly and the addition of Vinny DeNunzio (drums) and John J. (bass). The revamped group quickly created a buzz throughout the New York City new wave circuit, with the Village Voice dubbing them “The Best Underground Band in New York”. Anton Fier replaced Vinny DeNunzio in 1978, and Keith DeNunzio (Vinny DeNunzio’s brother) replaced John J. in 1979. This lineup of Mercer, Million, Keith DeNunzio and Fier released their debut single, “Fa Cé-La”, on Rough Trade Records (an independent British label) in 1979. The band’s refusal to work with outside producers jeopardized their immediate hopes for a major label deal, and as a result their debut album, “Crazy Rhythms” was released on another independent British label, Stiff Records in April 1980. The debut single from “Crazy Rhythms” was “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)” b/w “Original Love”, released in February 1980. This is today’s featured single.
“Everybody’s Got Something to Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)” is a rambunctious cover version of The Beatles song from the White Album that rips along at an even faster pace than the original. At the same time, the percussion on the track (especially the drums) are very restrained, and as always, The Feelies bring their unique vocal style into the mix. Although The Feelies were usually categorized as a new wave band, this track exemplifies the eclecticism of the band, with their sound seemingly incorporating elements of different genres without being easily pigeonholed into any of them. This is one of the better songs from “Crazy Rhythm”, and a worthy choice for the debut single.
The B-side of the single, “Original Love”, is one of the original tracks from “Crazy Rhythms” (all the songs on the parent album, except for “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)” and a cover version of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” were penned by Glenn Mercer and Bill Million). Nowhere near as raucous as the A-side, it has a somewhat mournful-sounding melody, to accompany lyrics about a relationship gone awry (“You said no commitment/When I asked you for a compromise/Just a compromise/Now I don’t know why I ask you/It’s always such a problem/Why make it a problem”). I liked the tremolo-like opening guitar chords, and the song proceeds along at a brisk pace, and the wailing background vocals were a nice touch. There is also a brief instrumental break about a minute and a half into the song (which lasts about thirty seconds). This is another good song by the band, and a nice counterpoint to the A-side.
The single (catalog #: BUY 65) was released on Stiff Records. Unusual for a Stiff Records BUY single, there was no picture sleeve; instead, a company sleeve was issued with it; the specially-designed label is shown above. Although “Crazy Rhythms” was a critical favorite, its lack of commercial success sat badly with Stiff, who began pressuring the band to release a hit single. Fier and DeNunzio left the band, and The Feelies were in limbo throughout much of the early 1980s. The band emerged from its hiatus with their second album, “The Good Earth” (1986), released in the U.S. on Coyote/Twin/Tone Records, which saw the original core of Mercer and Million augmented by new members Dave Weckerman (percussion), Brenda Sauter (bass) and Stan Demeski (drums). The band signed with A&M Records and released “Only Life” (1988); A&M also released their next album, “Time for a Witness” (1991). The band played their final gig at Maxwell’s in Hoboken on July 5, 1991. Subsequently, Bill Million moved to Florida without telling any of his bandmates or even leaving a forwarding address, marking the end of The Feelies after about fifteen years. The band reunited in 2008, and after several warm-up shows at Maxwell’s, they performed with Sonic Youth at Battery Park that year. A reunion album, “Here Before”, was released on April 12, 2011.
Weezer's "Say It Ain't So" limited edition 10-inch vinyl single.
Weezer was formed in Los Angeles in 1992 by Rivers Cuomo (vocals, guitar, keyboards, drums, harmonica), Patrick Wilson (drums), Jason Cropper (guitar, vocals), and Matt Sharp (bass, vocals). Their first gig was opening for Dogstar; soon their self-released “Kitchen Tapes” attracted attention from major label A&R representatives, and they signed with Geffen Records in June 1993. From August to September 1993, the band recorded their debut album at Electric Lady Studios in New York City (Rik Ocasek produced the album). During the recording of the album, Brian Bell replaced Jason Cropper. The album was released in May 1994, and was certified gold by the end of the year, eventually selling over 3 million copies. It spawned three singles: “Undone – The Sweater Song” (U.S. #57), “Buddy Holly” (U.S. #17), and “Say It Ain’t So”/”No One Else” [Live]/ “Jamie” [Live]. “Say It Ain’t So” is today’s featured single.
“Say It Ain’t So” is one of the more ponderous songs from the band’s debut album; it’s a catchy, tuneful song, but it is also a really emotional song, in which the protagonist sings about obviously painful childhood memories: “Flip on the tele’ /Wrestle with Jimmy /Something is bubbling /Behind my back/The bottle is ready to blow”. Here Rivers Cuomo draws an analogy between memories of childhood bubbling to the surface and an exploding soda bottle, with obvious effect. Cuomo claims the song was inspired by an incident that occurred when he was in high school. He saw a beer bottle in the refrigerator, and suddenly realized his parent’s marriage may have failed due to his father’s drinking, and that the marriage between his mother and stepfather might fail for the same reason. The middle bridge is powerful too, in which the singer dictates a letter to his estranged father: “Dear Daddy/I write you in spite of years of silence/You’ve cleaned up, found Jesus/Things are good or so I hear/This bottle of Steven’s awakens ancient feelings/Like father, stepfather, the son is drowning in the flood”. This gives way to a mournful-sounding guitar solo, with the guitar whining much like the singer. The song ends with the same simple guitar melody with which it opened, a nice flourish that perhaps suggests the Ocasek touch. “Say It Ain’t So” was the least successful of the three singles from “Weezer”, lacking either the sly novelty of “Undone” or the mass appeal of “Buddy Holly”, but in spite of that, “Say It Ain’t So” suggested that “Weezer” was capable of tackling more solemn topics in their music.
The U.K. release of the single also contains two live acoustic tracks. The first is a version of “No One Else”, the studio version of which was included on “Weezer”. In it, the singer maligns his current girlfriend (“My girl’s got a big mouth with which she babbles a lot/She laughs at most everythin’ whether it’s funny or not/And if you see her tell her it’s over now”) and yearns for a girl who will “laugh for no one else”. It is a bit strange to hear a melancholy, stripped-down version of the song – the track does not pack the same punch without the full Weezer power pop treatment. Still, it was interesting to hear.
The last track on the single is “Jamie”, an ode to the band’s lawyer, and the better of the two acoustic tracks. The song contains typically humorous lyrics (“You’ve got the Beach Boys, and your firm’s got the Stones/But I know you won’t leave me alone”), and compelling harmony vocals (especially the “hoo-ooo-ooo” during the chorus). This song will likely only be of interest to the hardcore Weezer fan, but is a worthy addition to the band’s catalog.
The single (catalog #: GED 22064) was issued by Geffen in the United States on CD in July 1995. It was issued in the U.K., both on CD and on vinyl (as a 10-inch single). By the time this single was released, the band was already at work on a second album; the resulting album, “Pinkerton” (1996) was seen as a commercial failure compared to the multi-platinum success of “Weezer”; the album eventually went gold, however, and has sold over 800,000 copies. This would be Matt Sharp’s last album with the group; he was replaced by Mikey Walsh. After a lengthy hiatus, the band returned in 2001 with “Weezer” (a.k.a. “The Green Album”). The album debuted at #4 in the U.S. and was soon certified platinum, confirming the fact that the band had retained a loyal fan base during its hiatus. Mikey Walsh, who had checked into a psychiatric hospital was replaced by Scott Shriner before the recording of their next album, “Maladroit” (2002), which received generally favorable reviews. The live EP “The Lion and the Witch” was released later that year. Their next album, “Make Believe” (2005), proved to be their highest-charting album in the U.S., peaking at #2 and selling over 1.2 million copies. The Rich Rubin-produced “Weezer” (a.k.a. “The Red Album”) followed in 2008; the following year, they released “Raditude”, which was also their last album for Geffen (they announced their departure from the label in December 2009). They signed with the independent label Epitaph, which released “Hurley” (2010) and the compilation album “Death to False Metal” (2010).
Picture sleeve for Dr. Feelgood's "Baby Jane" single.
Dr. Feelgood was formed in 1971 on Canvey Island, Essex, U.K. The original lineup consisted of Lee Brilleaux (lead vocals, harmonica), Wilko Johnson (lead guitar), John B. Sparks (bass guitar), and John Martin (a.k.a. “The Big Figure”, drums). The band signed with United Artists and released their first album, “Down by the Jetty”, in January 1975. Their second album, “Malpractice”, was released in October 1975, and became their first album released in the United States, as well as their first album to chart in the U.K. (peaking at #17). The band’s next album was the live “Stupidity” (1976), an album that topped the charts in the U.K., confirming their mushrooming popularity. This was followed up with “Sneakin’ Suspicion” (1977), the title track of which became their first charting single. This would be their last album with Wilko Johnson, who subsequently left the group and was replaced by Gypie Mayo. Their next album, “Be Seeing You” (1977), contained two charting singles: “She’s a Wind Up” b/w “Hi Rise” and “Baby Jane” b/w “Looking Back”. The latter is today’s featured single.
“Baby Jane”, penned by Bishop, Nesbitt, Reed, Simmons, and Wilson, is fairly typical of the band’s output: an upbeat, catchy tune anchored by a driving riff and Lee Brilleaux’s harmonica. It starts off with a guitar riff, soon joined by a punchy drum beat, as well as an organ and the abovementioned harmonica. Then Brilleaux launches into the lyrics, where he laments a lost love: “Baby Jane, what a fool I’ve been/I let you go, I cast my fate to the four winds/Baby Jane, can you forgive me now/And take away this heart of pain/That I’m living girl”. About one minute and ten seconds into the track, we get a brief but compelling instrumental break, including a great harmonica solo, before a reprise of the first verse. Brilleaux sings the song’s title repeatedly as the track fades out slowly. Nick Lowe produced this track (and the whole album), and delivers a nice, clean, radio-friendly recording. This single, unlike its predecessor, “She’s a Wind Up”, did not chart in the U.K. On September 20, 1977, Dr. Feelgood recorded a version of the song for a Peel Session, along with several other tracks.
Picture sleeve for the 12-inch release of "Baby Jane".
The B-side of the single, “Looking Back”, clocks in at a mere 1 minute and 59 seconds and is also based around a solid riff; Brilleaux’s harmonica-playing is less prominent here. In spite of its brevity, it contains a raucous 33 second-long guitar solo, which is entertaining, but what really holds the song together is the chorus of “I was looking back to see/If she was looking back to see/If I was looking back at her”. Overall this was a fun track and a worthy addition to the Dr. Feelgood catalog.
The single (catalog #: UP 36332) was released by United Artists. The 7-inch single release had a picture sleeve, and the 12-inch version had a completely different picture sleeve (also shown). The 12-inch release also had an additional track: a live version of the B.B. King-penned “You Upset Me Baby”, recorded at the Paddocks, Canvey Island, by Vic Maile with the Maison Rouge Mobile, on 10 June 1977. With Gypie Mayo as lead guitarist, the band never achieved the peak of popularity they did with Wilko Johnson; nevertheless, the band’s next album, “Private Practice”, was a moderate success, and contained their U.K. Top Ten single “Milk and Alcohol”. Gypie Mayo left the band in 1981, and was replaced by Johnny Guitar. The band’s popularity declined in the 1980s, but they continued to release albums throughout the decade, on a succession of different record labels. When the band found themselves without a record deal in the mid-1980s, Stiff Records signed them (returning a favor, as Lee Brilleaux had loaned the band’s ex-manager Andrew Jakeman 400 pounds to help launch the label). Brilleaux died of cancer in 1994, but the band reunited in 1995, the lineup then consisting of Steve Walwyn (lead guitar), P.H. Mitchell (bass guitar), Kevin Morris (drums) – all whom played together in the band from 1983 to 1989 – plus new vocalist Pete Gage. The band recommenced touring in 1996. Pete Gage was replaced by Robert Kane in 1999.
Picture sleeve for Rockpile's "Teacher Teacher" single.
In 1972, Dave Edmunds released a solo album called “Rockpile”; drummer Terry Williams was part of the backing band for that album. After the supporting tour ended, they disbanded. After the breakup of Brinsley Schwarz in 1974, Edmunds and Nick Lowe began recording together; Lowe and Williams provided backing on some of the tracks on Edmunds’ second solo album, “Subtle as a Flying Mallet” (1975). In 1976, Lowe began his association with Stiff Records as both a solo artist and in-house producer. Edmunds’ dislike for Jake Rivera precluded him from signing with Stiff and instead he signed with Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song Records. In spite of being signed to different record labels, Edmunds, Lowe and Williams toured as Rockpile in 1976-77 as the opening act for Edmunds’ label mate Bad Company. This early version of Rockpile also provided backing on Edmunds’ next album, “Get It” (1977). In 1977, Rockpile added Billy Bremner to the lineup as rhythm guitarist and third vocalist. This version of Rockpile provided backing on Edmunds’ “Tracks on Wax 4” (1978). In June 1979, Edmunds and Lowe released solo albums on the same day (“Repeat When Necessary” and “Labour of Lust”, respectively), both with Rockpile as the backing band. The following year, Edmunds submitted “Twangin'” (1981) to Swan Song (with Rockpile providing backing on 9 of the 11 tracks), completing his obligation to Swan Song. In the meantime, Lowe had defected to Columbia in 1978 as part of Jake Rivera’s buy-out deal upon departing Stiff Records. For the first time in four years, label politics would not stand in the way of releasing an “official” Rockpile album, and Rockpile released “Seconds of Pleasure” on Columbia in October 1980, preceded by the single “Teacher, Teacher” b/w “Fool Too Long”, released on September 22, 1980. This is today’s featured single.
“Teacher Teacher” is the first song off the album, and a worthy opening track it is. The lyrics and music are evocative of early bubblegum, yet I would rather listen to this music than anything released by The Backstreet Boys (actually, root canal surgery sounds more fun than listening to those gender-indeterminate fools). The song opens rather abruptly with a Billy Bremner/Dave Edmunds twin guitar attack, and as the lyrics start, Nick Lowe’s bass fills out the sound: “Young love, teacher`s pet/Cheeks flushed, apple red/Ringing you every day/Begging for a word of praise”. Nick Lowe sings lead vocals on this song, with Edmunds and Bremner providing the backup vocals (in the chorus). The echo effect on Lowe’s vocals was a nice touch, suggesting that Lowe the producer (production is credited to “Nick Lowe and Rockpile”, but I assume that Lowe handled the bulk of production duties) knew how to get the most out of even a throwaway rocker like this. Terry Williams, by the way, complimented the track well with his insistent drum rhythm. True to form for Rockpile, the song clocks in at a mere 2 minutes and 36 seconds.
Label for flipside of "Teacher Teacher" single.
But if “Teacher Teacher” was a very good song, “Fool Too Long” was even better. This time Edmunds provides the lead vocals (although Lowe and Bremner are on hand to back him up). This time, the subject of the song is a man scorned – the singer’s significant other has been cheating on him, and he’s pretty ticked off: “I should’ve realized it/A long time ago/When you told me that you loved me/But you didn’t anymore/You ran around with anyone/All behind my back/When you asked me to forgive you/I went and took you back”. The rhythm guitar on this track sounds like an acoustic guitar, which gives the track a unique sound. But for me what makes this track most memorable is that even though the subject of a man/woman who’s been wronged has been covered extensively in rock music, the song includes this great couplet: “If I’m the one who pays the rent/I gotta have a hundred percent”. True to form, Rockpile delivers a sharp, succinct tune, and this track runs 2 minutes and 51 seconds.
By the way, the label for this single is the orange and yellow Columbia label commonly used on Columbia singles in this time period (early 1980’s). The single was originally released with a picture sleeve (the booklet accompanying my “Seconds Of Pleasure” CD shows a “Teacher Teacher” picture sleeve, shown above), but subsequent pressings were issued with a plain company sleeve, also shown above. The single was a minor hit, reaching #51 on the Billboard Hot 100. Tensions between Edmunds and Lowe led to the dissolution of Rockpile in 1981. Bremner and Williams appeared on several Nick Lowe albums throughout the 1980s, but Lowe and Edmunds did not work together again until Lowe’s 1988 album “Pinker and Prouder Than Previous”.
Picture sleeve for Marshall Crenshaw's "Whenever You're on My Mind" single
Marshall Crenshaw was born on November 11, 1953 in Detroit, Michigan and was raised in the northern suburb of Berkley. He began learning guitar when he was ten; in 1968 he began fronting the band Astigfa (an acronym for “a splendid time is guaranteed for all”). In 1971, he graduated from Berkley High School. He continued his tenure with Astigfa for a time, but eventually moved to New York, where he got his first break playing John Lennon in an off-Broadway touring production of “Beatlemania” (he was an understudy). After purchasing a four-track recorder, Crenshaw began making demos whenever he was home, and he was soon armed with a set of demos he gave out to his show business connections. By the late 1970s, he was fronting a trio that consisted of himself on guitar, Chris Donato on bass and his younger brother Robert on drums. The band made an impact on the burgeoning New York City club scene. One fan was Alan Betrock, who had just founded Shake Records, and released Crenshaw’s debut single, “Something’s Gonna Happen”, in 1981. Retro rocker Robert Gordon recorded Crenshaw’s “Someday, Someway”; it reached #76 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1981. Soon Crenshaw was signed to Warner Bros. Records, which released his debut self-titled album in 1982. The first single, Crenshaw’s version of “Someday, Someway” was an even bigger hit than Gordon’s version, peaking at #36. To some popular music observers, Crenshaw appeared to be the next big thing, and his second album, “Field Day” (1983), was eagerly anticipated by fans. The album’s first single was “Whenever You’re on My Mind” b/w “Jungle Rock”. This is today’s featured single.
“Whenever You’re on My Mind” is an elegant piece of power pop about how the song’s protagonist can’t get the girl of his dreams out of his mind. It is built around an intriguing ascending guitar riff (A/G/D/F#/D/A) which just enough of an ethereal sound to provide appropriate backing for Crenshaw’s lyrics: “I think about you and forget what I’ve tried to be/Everything is foggy and hard to see/It seems to be, but can it be, a fantasy?” It is hardly an original idea for a song, but Crenshaw is enough of a craftsman to turn the song into a mini masterpiece, and one of the better songs of 1983. Although it was not the hit that “Someday, Someway” was, this likely had more to do with a few high-profile bad reviews of “Field Day” rather than the actual merits of the song, because the song is a gem.
The B-side of the single, “Jungle Rock”, is a non-album track; “Someday, Someway” also had a non-album track as the flip (“You’re My Favorite Waste of Time”). While most of the time Crenshaw sounds like Buddy Holly filtered through Elvis Costello and updated for the 1980s, here Crenshaw indulges in creating a slab of rockabilly retro-rock. The song opens with an insistent drum beat, soon joined by a bass guitar, and Crenshaw’s vocals: “Well I was walking through the jungle just the other night/Well I heard a big rumble and I thought it was a fight/But then I started listening and began to move my feet/It was a jungle drummer doing a knocked-out beat”. The drums on the track provide such a thunderous beat, with a synthesizer barely audible above the din (until the end, when it finally rips through the musical tapestry). Although this is not essential Crenshaw listening, fans of the genre will find it more than worthwhile.
The single was released on Warner Bros. Records in 1983. A picture sleeve was issued with the single (shown above). “Field Day” was a commercial disappointment after the relative success of the first album, although it did reach #52 on the Billboard album chart. “Downtown” (1985) was Crenshaw’s first album without his backing band of Chris Donato and Robert Crenshaw; it received generally favorable reviews, but sales were down from the first two albums. “Mary Jean and 9 Others” (1987) followed, with a more stripped-down sound than the previous albums. While Crenshaw’s audience has waned considerably since his salad days in the 1980s, he retains a strong core following, and his albums still score high marks for their power pop craftsmanship.
Picture sleeve for Dwight Twilley's "Girls" single.
Dwight Twilley was born in 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He met Phil Seymour (1952-1993) at a movie theater in Tulsa in 1967, where they had gone to see The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night”. The two soon began writing songs and recording together. Twilley played guitar and piano, while Seymour played bass and drums and sang lead vocals and harmonies. Bill Pitcock IV (1952-2011) played lead guitar on most of their early recordings. Their partnership continued under the name Oister. Twilley and Seymour eventually decided to leave Tulsa and try to be discovered in Memphis. They wandered into the Sun Studio, and they met Jerry Phillips, who referred them to the Tupelo, Mississippi studio of former Sun artist Ray Harris. The two went to Los Angeles and ended up signing with Shelter Records, co-owned by Denny Cordell and Tulsa’s Leon Russell in 1974. Russell changed the group’s name from Oister to The Dwight Twilley Band. Their first single, “I’m on Fire”, was released in April 1975 and reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with relatively little promotion; the band was in England recording their first album. The unexpected success of the self-produced “I’m on Fire” caused Shelter to shelf the English tracks, and Russell permitted the band to record tracks at his 40-track home studio. Unfortunately, a legal dispute between Cordell and Russell resulted in the loss of their distribution deal with MCA Records, and Shelter was essentially out of business for about a year. The resulting delay in releasing their debut album dissipated any momentum from the success of “I’m on Fire”, and the group’s first album, “Sincerely” (1976), peaked at only #138. Their second album, “Twilley Don’t Mind” (1977), in which Bill Pitcock IV become a full-fledged band member, fared better but was also a commercial disappointment. This effectively ended The Dwight Twilley Band, but Twilley continued as a solo artist, with Bill Pitcock IV still on lead guitar (and adding Susan Cowsill on backing vocals), releasing “Twilley” (1979) on Arista. His subsequent project, “Blue Print”, which had Jack Nitzsche as producer, was rejected by Arista. Twilley signed with EMI America when his contract with Shelter expired, and eventually released “Scuba Divers” (1982). While “Scuba Divers” was a commercial flop, the follow-up album, “Jungle” (1984), was more successful, buoyed by the Top 20 single “Girls”. This is today’s featured single.
“Girls” is a good example of the Twilley updating his sound for the 1980s, which is evident throughout “Jungle”. It begins with a brief synthesizer intro, before the guitars chime in, and Twilley singing: “Well, I’ve seen so many things/I’ve been all over the world/Well, I’ve had ups and downs/I’ve been over for a while”. The synthesizer is conspicuous throughout the track, as is Tom Petty singing vocals during the chorus (Petty was a fellow label-mate of Twilley during the Shelter Records days, and the two continued to collaborate on occasion). Overall, this is an enjoyable track with a memorable guitar riff, and Twilley made a well-deserved return to the charts with this song.
"Girls" single without the picture sleeve.
The B-side of the single, “To Get to You”, features synthesizers even more prominently than “Girls”, making it sound somewhat dated, though it is also a good track. More so than on “Girls” Twilley achieves a Beatles-esque feel to the music, especially with the vocals, which are mellifluous even without the benefit of Tom Petty. The song acquires almost an ethereal sense with the synthesizer and the soaring chorus of “Ah-ah-ah/To get to you”. If “Girls” announced that Twilley was on the rebound after the relative disappointment of “Scuba Divers”, “To Get to You” proved that it was no fluke.
The single (catalog #: B-8196) was released on EMI America, and had a picture sleeve (shown above). Twilley once again switched labels after the release of “Jungle”, signing with Joe Isgro’s Private I label. When Isgro was implicated in a radio promotion scandal, Private I collapsed, and Twilley’s next album, “Wild Dogs” (1986) was released on Epic’s CBS Associated label, and the album went largely unnoticed. Twilley found himself without a label and without a guitarist, as Bill Pitcock IV had quit. In the meantime, DCC Compact Classics reissued the two Dwight Twilley Band albums in 1989 and 1990. In 1993, DCC released “The Great Lost Twilley Album”, which contained 25 tracks from the ill-fated Shelter Records era. Shortly afterwards, Phil Seymour died of lymphoma. Twilley resumed his solo career, although he was unable to get a distribution deal for his next album, titled “The Luck”. EMI did release a 21-track greatest hits collection, “XXI”, in 1996, followed by reissues of the two Dwight Twilley Band albums the following year. All three albums went out of print in 1998 when EMI shut down the label. That same year, Pitcock rejoined Twilley, and he released “Between the Cracks, Vol. 1” (1999) on Not Lame Records, his first album of new material in 13 years. He finally released “The Luck” in 2001, although with some changes to the version he completed in 1994. This was followed by the “Have a Twilley Christmas” EP (2004), “47 Moons” (2005), the live album “Live: All Access” (2006), eight volumes of rarities released from 2007 to 2009, “Out of the Box” (2009), “The Beatles” (2009), and “Green Blimp” (2010). Bill Pitcock IV died of cancer in April 2011.