Monthly Archives: January 2015

TVD’s The Idelic Hour with Jon Sidel

Greetings from Shoreditch High Street, London, England!

“…Anything that you wanna do / anyplace that you wanna go / Don’t need permission for everything that you want / Any taste that you feel is right / Wear any clothes just as long as they’re bright / Say what you want / ‘cos this is a new art school / Do what you want, ‘cos this is the new art school…”

This week my rock ‘n’ roll journey brought me back to jolly ol’ England. It’s been two years since I’ve made the long journey from my cozy canyon to the great city of London. In many ways the city has changed.

Again my music business activities have been centralized in Shoreditch and around the London Bridge area. High tech coffee houses are everywhere and when you are 8 hours behind, a high skilled barista is quite a welcome sight.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Rolling Stones,
Sucking in the Seventies

The Rolling Stones’ Sucking in the Seventies: not only is it the most nakedly honest album title ever, it also proves that truth in advertising actually exists!

But before we give the Rolling Stones any consumer honesty awards, it should be borne in mind that Sucking in the Seventies is a colossal act of hubris. Not on did the Stones happily release a piece of swill, they actually announced right in the title that it was a piece of swill, that’s how confident they were that the great undiscerning herd would go out and plunk down their hard-earned shekels for it anyway.

And by God, the Stones were right. Sucking in the Seventies reached #15 on the U.S. album charts, which should discourage all those do-gooders who believe that a clear warning will deter people from buying products that are deleterious to their health. Just as I continue to smoke despite all those obviously bogus warnings on the cigarette packs saying that smoking causes cancer, gads of Stones’ fans went out and bought a product that blatantly declared that it sucked.

The Stones didn’t completely suck in the seventies; in fact the decade marked their high-water mark, what with those back-to-back gems Sticky Fingers (1971) and Exile of Main Street (1972), the latter of which may well be the greatest rock album ever made. But after that it all went to shit, with 1973’s disappointing Goat’s Head Soup, 1974’s lackluster It’s Only Rock’n’Roll, 1976’s execrable Black and Blue, and 1978’s respectable but seriously overrated Some Girls—their supposed return to greatness that wasn’t, except to those people so desperate to believe the Rolling Stones were still the World’s Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band they happily swallowed the inedible “Miss You” and didn’t even belch.

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TVD Premiere: Matt Jaffe & The Distractions, “Put Your Finger In The Socket”

“Put Your Finger In The Socket” was born out of a poem I wrote in Spanish that essentially tried to put my contrarianism in very blunt terms. After realizing you don’t share anything in common with someone, you try to do the opposite of them, regardless of how you would act independently of them.

Dressing oppositely, interacting oppositely, holding opposite principles–this behavior is arbitrary and based on being different, rather than any deep-seated beliefs. The song is so blunt partially because of my shortcomings as a Spanish speaker, but also because it represents a petty way of acting that is at once mindless and delightful.”
Matt Jaffe

San Francisco based Matt Jaffe’s enthusiasm for pop rock is palpable and he is more than equipped to spread the gospel.

Jaffe displays his youthful, retro tinged know-how on our exclusive premiere of “Put Your Finger in The Socket” which sees the 19-year-old casting off a protracted list of opposites. These are the meddling nuances that separate him from his sugar mamma. It seems his intention is to be the antithesis of whatever his object of affection is, even going so far as to say he would prefer hell over her bible thumping.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Rolling Stones, Stripped

If, like me, you wrote off the Rolling Stones a long, long time ago—hell, I didn’t even like Some Girls, which in effect means I think the last great Stones LP was 1972’s Exile on Main Street—you most likely consider Mick and Company as little more than a longstanding joke. You know, The Steel Wheelchairs tour and all. And you’ve probably asked yourself when they intend to finally hang it up and retire to their respective tax shelters, to spend their time getting total transfusions of young blood so they can live to be 147.

Because they’re old, goddamn it, and you’d have to be some kind of fanatic to buy any of their recent product, which leaves us with the question: The Stones—what are they good for? Absolutely nothin’, I would have said as recently as last week. Then I accidentally happened upon their 1995 live LP, Stripped, and I was shocked. Flabbergasted. Because the damn LP is good. They play the songs well and sound like they’re actually putting in an effort, and they don’t come across as a mediocre cover band playing their own material, which is what I would have predicted of any live Rolling Stones LP recorded after, say, 1985 at absolute latest.

A word of caution: when I say this is a live LP, it comes with one huge caveat. To wit, 8 of the album’s 14 songs weren’t played in front of an audience, but were recorded live in studios in Lisbon and Tokyo. To the Stones’ credit, it’s hard to tell the tracks apart, although there’s no mistaking the opening track, “Street Fighting Man,” for a studio endeavor. It’s raw and admirably raucous, with lots of great guitar and piano, and Mick’s voice is still as strong as in days of yore. No Dylan-like voice death for Jagger; he still slurs and preens and knows his way around a wry sexual innuendo, and the band is better for it.

Speaking of Dylan, they follow “Street Fighting Man” with “Like a Rolling Stone,” recorded at a London concert, and I’ll be damned if they don’t pull it off. The organ is perfect, Jagger sounds great on the verses, and the choruses are shout-alongs of the type first introduced by Dylan and the Band when they performed the tune during their live tour of 1974. The only false step is Jagger’s harmonica solo, which staggers along like Mike the Headless Chicken, who if you’re not familiar with his work I advice you to immediately look him up on Wikipedia.

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In rotation: 1/30/15

Our friends at DC’s Metro Weekly have assembled a rather killer guide to the DC area’s record stores.

From our playbook. “This US ambassador grooves to ‘vinyl diplomacy’ to thrive in London: “Diplomacy at its fundamental level is about connecting with people,” says Barzun, 44. “And it’s not just elected or official government-to-government relationships…We actually do get the government leaders but in a different context, all together in one place, united by a love of music and the particular band we’re featuring that night.”

OK, we need to stop citing these. “Vintage is not only a style of clothes making a comeback, but it’s also happening in the world of music. Both online and store front retailers of music are seeing an interest and spike in popularity for vinyl records.”

Another record store opens, and for a moment all is right in the world. “It doesn’t worry you that you’re three blocks from Recycled Records?”

Seriously, duh. “For the record, vinyl still rocks over digital and CDs.”

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TVD Vinyl Giveaway: Paul Kelly, The Merri Soul Sessions 7″ Box Set

Be he solo or in collaboration with a multitude of performing partners over the many years, Paul Kelly has established himself as one of Australia’s finest singer/songwriters. His latest finds him dipping back into the collaborative pool once more with a number of guests on his latest, The Merri Soul Sessions whose contents have been assembled into a special, limited to 1,000, 7″ double A-side singles box. And as the headline above attests, we have one box set to give away to one of you.

“Following the recent releases of his groundbreaking song cycles, Spring and Fall and Conversations With Ghosts, Australian troubadour Paul Kelly is pleased to announce another innovative chapter in his long-standing career. In the dawn of last year, he assembled his touring band and an exciting group of singers that included Clairy Browne, Vika and Linda Bull, Dan Sultan, and Kira Puru to record a set of new songs as well as one old classic.

Over an exhilarating two-week period, the tracks were performed live at Soundpark Studios in Northcote, Melbourne. Dubbed The Merri Soul Sessions, the music is being made available via PledgeMusic as a very “limited edition” series of four 7” vinyl singles (double A-side). Each vinyl single can be bought individually or combined in a limited-edition box set of which only 1,000 will be manufactured. More details are here.

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UK Artist of the Week: BRIDGES

BRIDGES are gearing up to release their second single “BFF” on the 23rd February. The track is nothing short of anthemic, with elements of The Teardrop Explodes and Kings Of Leon fused together to make a euphoric wall of alternative rock. The band’s raison d’être—to make people move.

With a UK tour on the horizon, and possible a few festival dates thrown in for good measure (they’ve already graced the stage at Glastonbury), we’re sure we’ll be hearing a lot more from this foursome before the summer.

“BFF” is released via Bear Pit Records on 23rd February 2015. Keep up to date with tour news on their official site.

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Shell Zenner Presents

Greater Manchester’s most in the know radio host Shell Zenner broadcasts the best new music every week on the UK’s Amazing Radio and Bolton FM. You can also catch Shell’s broadcast here at TVD every Thursday.

“Tonight, my ROTW is from The Sundowners. It’s called If Wishes Were Horses and I’ll be playing three tracks on the show today!

This weeks #Shellshock is by All We Are—it’s called ‘Keep Me Alive’ and it’s got that easy-going lilt that just makes me go gaga.” —SZ

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Graded on a Curve:
Half Japanese,
Volume Two: 1987-1989

Half Japanese wield an instantly recognizable yet consistently evolving amateurism springing from the immediate shockwaves of 1977 and continuing right up to the present; they stand as one of the true pillars of Underground USA. Featuring numerous personnel led by solitary constant member Jad Fair, the band has inspired scores of folks to pick up instruments and press record. Particularly significant were the albums released in the late-‘80s; this week Fire Records carries on anthologizing their output by collecting those and relevant bonus material in the 3LP/3CD/digital set Volume Two: 1987-1989.

While it’s taken a back seat to Jeff Feuerzeig’s excellent 2005 film portrait The Devil and Daniel Johnston, I rate that director’s ‘93 documentary Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King nearly as high, in large part because its approach, often comedic but never mocking, is as endearingly unconventional as the subject it covers.

Much of the humor is Feuerzeig poking fun at the overzealous stumping of music docs in general. Along the way indie celebrity talking heads, occasionally purposefully grandstanding, help to deliver essential background as performances by Jad Fair and his cohorts quietly shift the film’s tone from satire/parody (a mock-Mockumentary, if you will) to an essay of singular brilliance.

Like the movie, the sounds harnessed in the prior installments of Fire Records’ reissue series, namely ½ Gentlemen/ Not Beasts and Volume One: 1981-1985, vividly illustrate that the world, certainly not before and hardly ever since, offered nothing comparable to the fascinating growth spurts of the early incarnations of Half Japanese.

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In rotation: 1/29/15

Yet another laughably bad vinyl subscription club: “We haven’t finalised the pricing yet, but for about £15 you will get a couple of records sent to you each month. One of those will be chosen by Luke and myself. The other we will open up to a guest selector each month.”

Why can’t we let go of our old tech? “In an era when we’re all talking about digital music, the fact that these beautiful physical artefacts are still as popular as they are is fantastic,” Mr. Talbot told BBC Radio 5 live recently. “It’s really remarkable.”

“Early Tuesday, Warp Records released a tweet reading: “Broadcast will have their long out of print LPs made available again on March 9th 2015“. This comes as welcome news for fans of Broadcast who may not have had a chance to grab these records when originally released, especially since the market for vinyl has skyrocketed since the early – mid aughts.”

“Having spent last month looking back at the best of 2014, we’re turning our attention to the coming months and looking forward to what we can expect from the new year before the madness of Record Store Day takes hold once more in April.”

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TVD Live Shots: Patti Smith at the Fillmore, 1/23

It was a beautiful spring day in Austin, Texas back in 2004 and I was on my way to pick up the Godmother of punk rock, the legendary Patti Smith. I was working for Sony Music at the time and Patti had just released her Columbia Records debut Trampin’. I was asked by the label to pick up Patti at her hotel, take her to KGSR for an interview with Jody Denberg, then over to Waterloo Records for an in-store signing. When I got to the hotel it was insanely busy and there wasn’t one legit parking spot open and of course I was running late, so I parked illegally thinking that I would be in and out.

It ended up taking me a bit longer than I had anticipated to get back to my car as several folks who were staying at the hotel recognized Patti as we were walking through the lobby. She was very cool and stopped to chat with each of them along the way. As we reached the parking lot, the hotel manager made an announcement over some sort of loudspeaker that sounded like it was broadcast to the entire city. “The owner of a red Saturn sedan parked illegally will be towed,” blasted through the air as if it was a public service announcement. Patti looks at me and says something to the effect of “I’d hate to be that person today,” I looked back and said to her, ‘That’s our ride.”

To make a long story short, I got to my car just before the tow truck did and we were on our way. Patti along with her antique camera asked me to stop several times so she could snap a photo or two along “the Drag” while telling me stories about her camera and even a story or two about her late husband Fred “Sonic” Smith of the groundbreaking band MC5. It was an epic afternoon that turned out to be one of the most remarkable moments of my career in the music business.

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Graded on a Curve: Derek and the Dominos, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs

Eric Fucking Clapton: I’ve been blowing hot and cold on the guy for decades now, and would most likely completely despise him (for his racist comments, innumerable mediocre solo LPs, and general lack of a chin, to say nothing of “Tears in Heaven”) were it not for the ace up his sleeve, namely 1970’s Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos. One of rock’s greatest albums, Layla offers up a vision of a Clapton one will find nowhere else. Impassioned, funky, and loose, the Clapton of Layla is a man free at last of the shackles of this supergroup or that, and he has something to prove. Which he does, on a bunch of songs that sound as fresh, frenetic, world-weary, heartbroken, and wild as they did when they were recorded.

Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs has been one of my favorite LPs since the early seventies. I played the hell out of my older brother’s copy, and was not above listening to the title track 10 or so times in a row, while playing air guitar before the mirror to its remarkable coda. It’s sublime, that coda, one of the most sublime things I’ve ever heard, and I’ve never tired of it and I never will.

The story behind the double LP is well known. Clapton hooked up with a stellar cast of musicians (Bobby Whitlock on organ, piano, vocals, and acoustic guitar; Jim Gordon on drums, percussion, and piano; Carl Radle on bass and percussion; and coup of all coups, Duane Allman on guitars), all but Allman being alumni of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, with whom Clapton, happy to be sideman for once, had been playing. Clapton and Whitlock co-wrote a good number of the originals, five were covers, and so on. The musical rapport between Clapton and Allman was, by all accounts, instantaneous, and Clapton was thrilled by his sidemen, saying later, “Carl Radle and Jimmy Gordon are the most powerful rhythm section I have ever played with” and calling Gordon “the greatest rock’n’roll drummer who ever lived.” (Those are strong words coming from a guy who played with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce.)

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TVD Live: Waters at
the Roxy, 1/22

PHOTOS: MANNY HEBRON | There’s one thing that’s almost as exciting as seeing a great show, and it’s seeing a band in the early stages of being great—where you know that they’re really good now but after 200 shows, they’ll be amazing. This is Waters, a stellar work in progress with infinite potential and we were thrilled to be there to see the very beginnings of what could possibly be our new favorite band.

The best thing going on in alternative rock right now is that it is indefinable—there are synths, electric guitars, acoustic guitars, tambourines, sleigh bells, mellotrons…banjos—you name it…alternative means anything. Alternative rock I think has been burst wide open and made nebulous due to its age and of course technology. If you’re between the ages of let’s say 18 and 35 (which most new young bands are) chances are that you grew up listening to everything—The Beatles (we hope), The Notorious B.I.G, LCD Soundsystem, Dave Matthews, Jay Z, Soundgarden, Faith No More, Fiona Apple, Spoon, N’ Sync etc. Having influences and access (thank you internet) to all genres and styles of music have made lots of indefinable sounds, all lumped under “alternative rock.” Enter Waters

I didn’t know anything about Waters going into this show except that they were from San Francisco and that I really loved the record, so I was surprised to see band with an acoustic guitar up front in an “alternative rock band.” Their sound is jammy, catchy, it jangles and it rocks. I can’t really describe it , except for being Waters. One of my favorite things is that they wear their hometown on their sleeve, possessing a wonderful air of San Francisco charm—the charm of peace and love that is ever-present in the place that birthed the summer of love and where hippies once ruled, and in a sense still do, but that’s for another article.

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Graded on a Curve: Lynyrd Skynyrd,
Lynyrd Skynyrd

During the 1970s Lynyrd Skynyrd was the premier name Southern Rock, and for scores of folks their first six records constitute something akin to the apex of that oft-derided genre. This week Universal offers exact reproductions of their ’73-’77 output, specifically five studio LPs and one live double, on 180gm vinyl tucked into a rigid, eponymous slipcase box.

Though I’m too young to remember pre-plane crash Lynyrd Skynyrd, I do recall a time before their status seemed to break down to extremes, with religious fervor on one side and a source of humor/target of mockery on the other. This is not to insinuate the outfit didn’t reliably stir intense devotion throughout their existence; indeed, youthful memories designate the band as one of the few for which uttering an unkind word in public could result in hostilities not excluding violence.

I’d never disparage Skynyrd as rednecks (the ‘70s incarnation, anyway), because I don’t think that’s accurate. But amongst their fans undeniably dwelt an intolerant percentage. Furthermore, prior to descending into unimaginative rock-club attention-seeking the entreaty to “Play Free Bird” essentially reflected the phenomenon of weekend booze-hounds harassing bar acts into committing a rather ornate tune to their book.

So please forgive me for thinking Skynyrd needs no introduction. And to this writer they became increasingly burdensome upon growing more omnipresent, just one more reason to tunnel deeper into the ‘80s underground. Later, upon making the acquaintance of such killers of obscure ‘70s southern rock (if not exactly Southern Rock) as the Hampton Grease Band’s Music to Eat and James Luther Dickinson’s Dixie Fried, I really couldn’t have cared less.

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In rotation: 1/28/15

Pint of purchase: “Record Store Day has named My Generation Beer Company its official drinks partner for this year’s event.”

…and a radio station? “Chuck D Assists Record Store Day In Launching an Internet Radio Station”

“Nielsen: Canada Loved Taylor Swift, Streaming Music and, Yep, Vinyl in 2014″

“Fayetteville apparently won’t be losing its last record store after all.”

TVD Poetry Corner.

“…May will see the release of [the Chris Robinson Brotherhood’s] Betty’s Blend Volume 2: The Best From the West, a double vinyl set recorded by longtime Grateful Dead taper Betty Cantor-Jackson from shows in California, Colorado and other locales. It follows the 2013 set Betty’s S.F. Blends Volume 1 from a five-night stand the previous December at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.”

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