Round the Dial
Wednesday 05 March @ 13:03:13
by Tom Hallett
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “That’s what music and film and art are for...to pull you up out of that despair, to shine a light on new possibilities. That’s where the living is, that’s where life is.”
SONG OF THE WEEK: “God’s Away On Business”
Hey-ho, ‘Dial-heads! We’ll continue reviewing the massive pile o’ discs teetering precariously beside my stereo next week, but this time ‘round, I’ve got a wee little rant for ya. You know those ‘60s and ‘70s “Superstars” collections you see on the shelves of some of our larger music retailers? They’re today’s answer to the ubiquitous K-Tel and Ronco Big Hits series released throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, but they have a nasty little secret. You must’ve noticed them, if only because the price tags on ‘em are so low—$7.99, $8.99—and there are MOUNDS of ‘em. Some so closely resemble the official Billboard Top 10/Top 40 collections that, unless you produce a magnifying glass and some sort of carbon dating system, you’d never know the difference. And what, exactly, IS the difference? Oh, it’s evil, man.
Ninety-nine percent of the tunes have been RE-RECORDED (ORIGINAL ARTISTS! ORIGINAL HITS! screams the sticker on the cover, and that’s true, but the small print buried on the side panel reveals the sick, twisted truth) and re-released using horrific, elevator-muzak backing bands (or, in most cases, soggy electronic drivel—and that’s saying something, considering how insipid many of these songs were in their original forms—pouring forth from some monstrous modern piece of technology) and decrepit, over-the-hill surviving band members.
Here’s a quick run-down from a set I checked out called ‘70s Generation/’70s Superstars, on the Direct Source label: Disc One kicks off with “Come And Get It” by Badfinger. It’s NOT the original track—and it doesn’t sound like frontman Pete Ham singing, and if it WAS Pete Ham singing, I’d be real surprised, since Pete Ham’s been DEAD for over 25 years. Is it drummer Mike Gibbins? Naw, Mike never had a singin’ voice, and was smart enough to keep his trap shut when he banged on them skins. Is guitarist Joey Molland singing? Shouldn’t be; he wasn’t even IN Badfinger when they cut this Paul McCartney-penned track, and I should know, since Joey signed my copy of the album, “Joey Molland wasn’t on this album!” Is it bassist Tom Evans singing? Nope, he’s gone on to the great guitar jam in the sky, too. Brrr! Scary! Somebody somewhere should be very, very ashamed.
Both “Get Ready” and “I Just Want To Celebrate,” originally done by Rare Earth, at least warn you they’re not the real thing by including “(Featuring Peter Rivera)” under the track listing. Tepid, soul-less karaoke from the very bowels of Hell. Not that I ever wanna hear the originals again anyway (Thanks, KQ!), but who thought that getting people who sound like BRUCE HORNSBY’S backing band to mimic Rare Earth was a good idea? Sheesh. The once-controversial black girl/white boy protest/love song, “Brother Louie,” is similarly slaughtered, with former Stories lead singer Ian Lloyd croaking embarrassingly over a lounge-y, de-balled shadow of the real deal.
America’s answer to the British invasion, Paul Revere And The Raiders, are equally shamed here by former frontman Mark Lindsay, who not only takes the piss out of “Indian Reservation (Lament Of The Cherokee Nation),” but dares to re-cut his horrifying 1970 solo tune, “Arizona.” Honestly, I heard a better version of “Indian Reservation” recently on an old Superior Records release of Billy ThunderKloud & The Chieftones’ (Thanks, Dale!) album, ...Where Do I Begin To Tell The Story... Mark, you desperately need to look into the career opportunities awaiting you at Brown Institute or some other “accredited,” affordable tech school before some idiotic French producer talks you into writing songs for other hot, dry states like “New Mexico,” “Nevada,” and “Utah.” IT’S OVER, PAL! America lost the war with Big Brother, and not even the real Paul Revere could help Her now.
Sammy Johns’ “Chevy Van” was one of the few tracks I found that I’m sure (well, reasonably sure, anyway) is the original recording. And if you really had a hankerin’ to own it so’s you could play it anytime you wanted, night or day, you could just save yourself ten bucks by recording that rotting slice of ‘70s hell right off good ol’ KOOL 108— if you don’t mind some blathering old jock talking over both the intro and outro of the tune, that is. As a matter of fact, I can almost guarantee that if you left a 120-minute tape in set on “auto-reverse” and “record” on the “Oldies” station, you’d pick up 97 percent of this double CD release in ONE SITTING—and could easily grab the other 3 percent off of your friendly local “Classic Rock” station the next night. Not that I’m advocating home-taping here (wink, wink), but it just seems to me like a steaming load of shite to pay for even the original (alternately massively-overplayed and hopelessly obscure) one-hit wonders included on this set, let alone these putrescent, half-assed covers. The only half-interesting thing about the package would’ve been extensive liner notes and before-and-after photos of the aged wrecks performing the songs, and ya don’t even get that here.
For instance, I inexplicably found myself a tiny bit curious as to how—and where—the fine folks at Direct Source found “Undercover Angel” singer Alan O’ Day to recut that particular tune. I mean, come on, ALAN O’DAY? The only possible way you’d even remember him would be if you’d been a dorky 13-year-old like me, holding a tiny transistor radio to your head under the pillow after “lights out” back before the dawn of time. Oh, he must’ve been thrilled when they called him at his law firm or computer design company and asked him to relive the glory days of 1977, when his lone hit—about a late-night visit to his bedroom by a hot-to-trot female demon called a succubus—made it to number one for an incredible 17 WEEKS! (Shows you how good the drugs were back then, eh? This song wouldn’t crack the Billboard Top 200 today.) But Al also wrote “Angie Baby” for Helen Reddy and “Rock And Roll Heaven” for The Righteous Brothers, so he probably has some kinda Satanic royalty checks comin’ in direct on the bus from Beelzebub.
Like I said, the least these swindlers could’ve done would’ve been to include some in-depth liner notes on the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, HOW, WHEN, and WHY of each track and artist. I mean, it wouldn’t have made hearing “The Night Chicago Died” again any more bearable, but we could’ve gotten a laugh or two reading about what ever happened to the various members of Paper Lace, Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds (did they ever settle the question of why Joe Frank was the only member of the group who got to use TWO NAMES?), Edison Lighthouse, and Pilot.
I guess we’ll have to wait until VH-1 REALLY hits the bottom of the barrel on their “Where Are They Now?” series to find out the true fates of the lonesome losers represented here. Which ones became hopeless junkies with a pitiful share of the royalties received from their brief moment of glory? Who ended up turning tricks on Broadway, forced to perform degrading sexual acts while singing their one hit over and over again to an endless parade of sick, ‘70s-obsessed johns? Who invested wisely and went on (like ‘80s new waver Gary Numan) to a lucrative career in the aeronautics field? And who thought anybody would EVER want to hear Freda Payne’s “Bring The Boys Home” again? Is George W. Bush behind this whole wicked conspiracy? And what’s next? Oh, the humanity....
And finally, on Disc Two, Sweet’s massive power-rocker “Ballroom Blitz” is decimated by a haggard Brian Connolly, who opens the tune not with the familiar spoken, “Are you ready Steve, Mick, Andy...” line, but with a lame drum roll and, “Are you ready DAVE, STEVE, CLAY?” AHHHGGGHH!!! This is too much, man. I can take ‘em fucking with Vanity Fare’s “Hitchin’ A Ride” or The Fortunes’ “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling,” but when you cross that line and start playin’ with the original heat and fire of tunes from Sweet’s most-excellent 1975 album Desolation Boulevard, you’ve gone too far, buddy.
Oh, you young ‘uns out there in Dial-land think that’s funny? Well, imagine the songs you grew up with and wanted to share with your children, nephews, nieces, and grandchildren absolutely SHREDDED by some soul-dead offshore record company and the remaining members of the bands who’d originally cut ‘em (and to be fair, got totally fucked on their record deals and are trying to recoup a little cash-ola, but I say not at the fan’s expense, mofos). How’d you like to hear a 63-year-old Chad Channing or Dale Crover warbling their moldy way through Nirvana’s “About A Girl?” Not that most of these artists could ever be so much as a brown streak on Kurt Cobain’s shorts, but in my opinion, Sweet, Badfinger, and The Chi-Lites deserve a bit more respect than to be hacked to pieces by some cornhole wannabe record exec in a bad suit. This is just WRONG. Like I said, I have a hard time believing somebody dug up Badfinger’s Pete Ham so he could re-cut “Come And Get It” and “Day After Day.” Did the Ham family give the thumbs-up for the folks at Direct Source (Lies, all lies! They’re only a direct source to ROCK AND ROLL HELL!!) to use some old, alternate vocal take over newly-recorded music? Naw, I don’t care what you say, this ain’t Pete Ham.
OK, you get the point—if you’re checking out ‘60s and ‘70s (and I’d start keeping an eye on the ‘80s and ‘90s too, no era is safe from the soul-suckers) compilation CD’s—whether out of nostalgia, curiosity, or just some sick, twisted idea you have for a mix tape/CD you plan on putting together for a particularly vile ex—you’d better make sure it’s a batch of the real shit, or you’ll end up hearing wilder versions of the songs in the elevator on your way up to that cubicle. A safe bet is the original BILLBOARD series, anything RHINO RECORDS releases, and SHOPPING AT LOCALLY OWNED AND OPERATED RECORD STORES where the clerks actually know their asses from a hole in the ground. I feel so sorry for that drone in the music section at Best Buy who thought THE ZOMBIES (who, by the way, kicked the living shit out of their ‘60s originals onstage a few months back at First Avenue) was the name of a bad ‘70s horror flick. Poor bastard. We’ll be back next week with lots more CD reviews.
*NOTE: To help business in today’s stale economy -and satiate my incredible lust for live local music—I’ve begun featuring short, quiet acoustic in-store performances from area musicians down at Twin Cities Leather And Boot in St. Paul, where, as of this writing, I somehow manage to remain employed. Last week, former Ether Monkeys bassist Matt “Boomer” Anderson and up-and-coming rock legend Danny Viper both lent their massive talents to us for over an hour each, and you missed it!! (Thanks to those cats as well as Tim P., Paul D., Jessie Belle, and the cool folks upstairs at Fluid Ink Tattoos for help and support) These in-stores will go down every Saturday afternoon between 3 and 4 p.m., and future gigs will feature some of the Twin Town’s brightest and best. We might even put a CD out someday... Come down this weekend for a very special surprise set from yet another local fave—and find yourself some great deals on leather boots, gloves, skull caps, jackets, and vests, check out the Speedboat bookstore/art gallery next door, or get yourself inked, branded or otherwise poked, punctured and prodded up at Fluid Ink. 570 N. Snelling Avenue, St. Paul, 651-917-8100. End of shameless plug. Until next time—make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/events that you’d like to see listed in this column, or you’d just like to share your own sour rant about Sweet, send replies to: TMygunn777@aol.com.