Author Archives: Christopher T

And you definitely won’t hear about the Revolution on Facebook either. It’s basically not even a thing anymore. RIP Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)

Gil Scott-Heron, Voice of Black Culture, Dies at 62:

“You can go into Ginsberg and the Beat poets and Dylan, but Gil Scott-Heron is the manifestation of the modern word,” Chuck D., the leader of Public Enemy, told The New Yorker in 2010. “He and the Last Poets set the stage for everyone else.”

Gil Scott-Heron, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” [Buy Small Talk at 125th and Lenox (1970)]

Kanye West, “Who Will Survive In America” [Buy My blah blah blah Fantasy (2010)]

Gil Scott-Heron, “On Coming From A Broken Home (Part 2)” [Buy I’m New Here (2010)]

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RIP Poly Styrene

In 1976, Poly Styrene (Marion Elliott-Said) of Brixton, after catching the Sex Pistols play an early show, placed an ad in a couple British music papers in search of “Young Punx Who Want to Stick It Together.” The result was the album Germ Free Adolescents by X-Ray Spex and the hit single “Oh Bondage Up Yours!”

The first wave, braces-wearing, daughter of a dispossessed Somali aristocrat, proto-riot-grrl, Hare Krishna convert succumbed to cancer on Monday at the age of only 53.

Check out an early interview on youtube here.

Check out the video for the single “Virtual Boyfriend” from her recent solo album Indigo Generation here.

X-ray Spex, “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” [Buy The Anthology from Amazon]

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Happy Easter, Christians!

I am Senor Chang, and I'm so ill! This is a warning: I can't be killed.

Jacques Slade, “I Never Die” [youtube] (from the Community soundtrack)

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Your 420 Post: Argent, “Liar”

It’s not like I’m obligated to post one, but if you were expecting a 420 friendly tune, then the following should serve nicely.

After the lackluster sales of Odessey and Oracle, one of our favorite misspelled albums, The Zombies tragically dissolved. Distinctive vocalist Colin Blunstone left to work in the insurance industry for a little while before ultimately returning to music, but keyboardist/song-writer/sometime-vocalist Rod Argent quickly formed his own band, Argent, which would go on to release several albums throughout the early seventies.

Several tracks off the 1970 self-titled debut would sound right at home on an Odessey and Oracle follow-up, for example, “Schoolgirl,” “Dance in the Smoke,” and “The Feelings Inside.” All are very highly recommended.

"Come right in! Your keys go in that bowl there. We were just listening to Argent on our Koss headphones. It's 1970."

But then there’s a track like “Liar,” which would turn into a much bigger hit for Three Dog Night when they covered it that same year.  It is not like the Zombies, but I like it. To begin with, the driving blues riff sounds more like something Alvin Lee was doing around that time with Ten Years After, but there’s also an edge that, to me, makes it way more of a freak-out than anything the Zombies did together.


Argent, “Liar”

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Tripping Through Vanguard’s Vaults

Tomorrow, April 16, is the fifth annual Record Store Day, so be sure to run out and support your local record store whether it’s a.k.a. Music in old city, Repo on South St, tequila sunset or milkcrate records up on Girard, or whatever.

To celebrate the occasion, Vanguard Records has dug deep in its vaults and come out with Follow Me Down: Vanguard’s Lost Psychedelic Era (1966-1970), a two-disc compilation of mostly single album artists from that golden, paisley age.

Tracks range from the Hammond-soaked agnosticism of Listening’s “Stoned Is” (It’s a mean life / I mean, you don’t even know why you scream / but someday I’ll find out what I’ve got to say) to the more experimental, thirteen minute raga-rock vision-quest (complete with electric banjo) of Serpent Power’s “Endless Tunnel,” a personal favorite that exchanges the blue bus of The Doors’ “The End” for a mysterious passenger train headed for death or conformity or something.

Here is “Stoned Is” for your enjoyment.  If the bass sounds a bit familiar (solo starts at 3:20), it’s because Walter Powers would later be known to hold the groove for the (moderately more successful) Velvet Underground.

Listening, “Stoned Is”

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Listen to Timber Timbre’s Upcoming LP for Free!

Just a heads-up that Creep On Creepin’ On, scheduled for an April 5th release, can be heard for free HERE [updated with the correct link]. I favorably reviewed the Canadian ghost-folk outfit’s 2009 self-titled debut back in Noise Narc’s early days, and Creep On Creepin’ On, as the name might suggest, continues the same theme with references to death, seances, madness and magic spells, but with a few extra instruments thrown in here and there (like the morose sax at the end of the title track or the demonic cello/sax/violin combo in “Do I Have Power?”).  On a first impression, it sounds like some tracks veer more towards a horror movie score sound (Swamp Magic), while others will make you want to slow dance like it’s the zombie prom.  I like it.

Pre-order Creep on Creepin’ On here or here.

Also, it looks like they’re only making three US stops between Ontario and Europe, but one of those is Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live, April 12.

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RIP Knut (2006-2011)

When I was on vacation in Germany in 2007, a billboard promoting Frankfurt with a picture of a piggy bank on it read: “Berlin hat Knut.  Frankfurt hat Schweine.” I understood that “swine” in this case referred to the financial industry centered in Frankfurt, but a random German on the streets had to inform me what “Knut” meant.  He was a polar bear born in captivity in the Berlin zoo.   His polar bear mother (a former circus-performer) rejected him, so surrogate father, zookeeper Thomas Dörflein, raised him, and little did I know that I’d arrived in Germany at the dizzy peak of “Knutmania.”  Deutschland loved the cuddly runt.

Here Comes Knut! video.

Knut’s upbringing may have been unorthodox, some would even say “unnatural,” but was it wrong?  Animal rights activist Frank Albrecht thought so.  The life of a polar bear without a polar bear mother’s love and instruction was no polar bear life at all.  Albrecht and a few others advocated euthanasia for Knut, but the children of Berlin stood in his corner, and the result was the zoo’s most profitable year in its then-163-year history.  So that shut Albrecht up.

But the light bulb that burns twice as bright lasts half as long, and like all child stars, Knut didn’t grow up quite right.  At 2 years old, when his surrogate zookeeper father died of a heart attack at the age of only 44, Knut was considerably less adorable.  He was also a little strange, letting the polar bear ladies in his enclosure walk all over him.  Some have argued that the stress of his living situation may have contributed to his premature death (captivity polar bears can live up to 30 years; Knut was 4), which the results of a recent autopsy blame on brain disease.  Witnesses say his rear leg began twitching before he collapsed in a pool of water and drowned as zookeepers rushed to rescue him.

What did the people of Germany see in him?  The story of Knut is one of captivity, exploitation, controversy and a-cute (too soon?) heart break.  In honor of his story, think of him as you gaze at your shoes in sadness, listening to “Polar Bear” off of Ride’s 1990 debut, Nowhere:

Ride, “Polar Bear” [Buy Nowhere]

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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Tom Waits, and Darlene Love

It’s not much of a secret that there are some Tom Waits fans here at Noise Narcs.  Most surprising to me about Waits’ recent induction into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is finding out that he plays Rock and Roll.  Usually I just categorize him as “Tom Waits.” But where’s the Hall of Fame for that?  Where’s the Jazz-Blues-Eastern-European-Folk-Avant-Opera and Nightmare-Hobo-Cookie-Monster Hall of Fame for that?

Check out Terry Gross’ great and hilarious recent interview here:

GROSS: Well, what was your first instrument?
Mr. WAITS: I don’t know. I don’t know, probably a box or something.

Tom Waits, “Step Right Up” [Buy Small Change]

Tom Waits, “Misery Is the River of the World” [Buy Blood Money]

Other inductees include Leon Russell (featured on Noise Narcs here) listed as a “sideman” and Darlene Love, whom you may not have heard of–in spite of her prolific career–because of stories like this from her Hall of Fame bio:

Among rock cognoscenti, Love is best known for “He’s a Rebel,” a song credited to the Crystals that was in actuality sung by Love and her vocal group, the Blossoms. The reason for this odd situation has to do with the record’s producer, Phil Spector. He instinctively knew that the song, written by Gene Pitney, would be a hit. But he couldn’t record it with the Crystals, his main recording group at the time. They were back home in Brooklyn while he was out in Los Angeles, impatient to get the song recorded before a competing version (by Vicki Carr) could gain momentum. So he cut “He’s a Rebel” with the Blossoms, crediting it to the Crystals because he wanted a recognizable name on the record and they had two recent hits (“Uptown” and “There’s No Other [Like My Baby]”).

The Crystals, “He’s A Rebel” [Buy The Sound of Love: The Very Best of Darlene Love]

And here you’ll find the full induction list for 2011.

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A Polaroid of the Blogger as a Younger Man

In “The One Where They All Turn Thirty,” Rachel is upset because she thought she’d have found “The One” by that age, and she doesn’t yet realize that it’s always been Ross.

If you know what I’m talking about, then you’re probably as old as Dave, who turns thirty today.

I’ve known Dave since the summer of 1999, when Penn State, having assigned us to be roommates, exchanged our phone numbers so that we could plan who would bring the stereo and who would bring the tv, etc.  IIRC, Dave directed that first conversation towards the subject of musical taste.  Here is my reconstruction of it:

D: Hello?
C: Hi, I’m Chris.  So we’re going to be roommates?
D: Guess so.  What kind of music do you like?
C: All kinds I guess.  I play a little guitar.  I sort of like that band Tool.
D: [silence]
C: Hello?  Are you still there.
D: Yeah, sorry.  I was just thinking of something awful.  Do you like Radiohead?
C: Uh…yeah, sure.
D: Have you ever heard of DJ Shadow?
C: Who?
D: DJ Shadow
C: No, I never heard of him.
D: That’s not surprising.

That year I listened to a lot of new-to-me music thanks to Dave, and in honor of that, I put together a little playlist of a few of those tracks.  Perhaps they will offer Noise Narc’s readers a slight insight into the mind of Dave G.  Feel free to reminisce if you’re old enough.

Space, “Begin Again” [Buy Tin Planet]

Morphine, “Potion” [Buy Like Swimming]

Jeff Buckley, “The Sky Is A Landfill” [Buy Sketches (For My Sweetheart the Drunk)]

Bach, “Harpsichord Concerto No.10 in C Major BWV 1061, II” [Buy Bach: Concertos]

Kula Shaker, “Mystical Machine Gun” [Buy Peasants, Pigs, and Astronauts]

On the bright side, Dave, while you’re now older than all of the technology featured in this video, the kids actually do a pretty good job of identifying what it had once been useful for:

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Jean Dinning (1924-2011) and the Teen Coffin Song Genre

Death has a very special place in American culture. America grew as a frontier nation in the constant shadow of death. Americans love dead heroes, from George Washington to Elvis Presley. Music and movie stars like Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Jim Morrison, Hank Williams and Patsy Cline have made much more money since their deaths than during their lives. Even to make it onto an American postage stamp you have to be dead for at least ten years. Every October 31st, on Halloween, normal American children dress up as ghosts, mummies, ghouls and vampires and make a party out of death.
from Life in the USA, a “complete guide to American life for immigrants and Americans.”

Jason Priestley as the deceased "Buzz Gunderson" in a promo shot for the 1989 television series, "Teen Angel." It lasted one season.

Jean Dinning, who died last month, penned the 1959 rock and roll hit, “Teen Angel,” with her husband, and her brother recorded it.  It’s sung from the perspective of a young man whose car breaks down across train tracks.  The man and his girlfriend escape, but she’s forgotten the high school ring he gave her in the car and in the midst of retrieving it is hit by the oncoming train and killed.  The morbid subject of the song led many US radio stations to ban it, but it strongly resonated with the death-obsessed youth of America, reaching #1 on the US charts and inaugurating the Teen Coffin Song or “Splatter Platter” genre.

Mark Dinning, “Teen Angel” (1959) [Download from Amazon]

The roots of the genre likely stem from the country/western death ballad, an influence that can be heard in such specimens as Jody Reynolds’ rockabilly “Endless Sleep” (an ultimately non-tragic precursor) and Marty Robbins’ “El Paso.”  Another common characteristic is the theme of star-crossed lovers, as evidenced in Johnny Preston’s mildly offensive “Running Bear.”

Jody Reynolds, “Endless Sleep” (1959) [Download from Amazon]

Marty Robbins, “El Paso” (1959) [Download from Amazon]

Johnny Preston, “Running Bear” (1959) [Buy from Amazon]

Roy Orbison, “Leah” (1962) [Buy from Amazon]

And many of the coffin songs tap into the rebellious image cut by such American teen icons as James Dean, who crashed his Porsche 550 Spyder in 1955.  Regarding this feature of the genre, R. Serge Denisoff argued in a 1983 issue of The Journal of Popular Culture that the cultural significance of these novelty songs inheres in that association between rebellion and death: “in the early 1960s seemingly the only viable form of rebellion for many adolescents was withdrawal in running away or in death.”  A questionable thesis, I’d say, that hardly pertains to “Teen Angel,” but it’s interesting to consider tracks like “Leader of the Pack,” “Dead Man’s Curve” or the Beach Boys’ “A Young Man is Gone” in that thematic context.

The Beach Boys, “A Young Man Is Gone” (1963) [Download Little Deuce Coupe from Amazon]

Jan & Dean, “Dead Man’s Curve” (1964) [Download from Amazon]

The Shangri-Las, “Leader Of The Pack” (1964) [Download from Amazon]

J. Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers, “Last Kiss” (1964) [Buy from Amazon]

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