Monday, August 10, 2009

still fresh as a daisy

From Hawthorne, California, home of the Beach Boys, Emitt Rhodes is one of the most underappreciated talents in rock’n’roll. He started his career in a group called the Palace Guard and later went on to form The Merry-Go-Round. The Merry-Go-Round had a great baroque rock. When the group disbanded, Emitt set up a studio in his parents’ garage and produced one of the best albums of the 70s. On the self-titled solo debut, you can hear the Beatles/Paul McCartney influence.

Even more impressive, he wrote all the songs himself, played all the instruments and did all the vocals. His first album was a critical success – Billboard called Rhodes "one of the finest artists on the music scene today" and later called his first album one of the "best albums of the decade". The album reached number 29 on the Billboard charts. He had a minor hit with the song “Fresh as a Daisy.” His follow up albums, although they had great tunes, weren’t quite as good as his first.

Sadly, he had signed a record contract that called for two albums a year. Since he did everything himself, and was a perfectionist, he couldn’t keep up the pace and was sued by his own record company. He ended up broke, broken and depressed. He never produced another record for release.

Today, he is a recluse. Divorced. Suffering from diabetes, he spends his time reading physics and mathematic textbooks and recording songs in the same garage he did his three albums. He supposedly has hundreds of tunes recorded, but who knows if they’ll ever see the light day.

It’s a sad story. But the music he recorded, like the best Beatles music, still stands up today. ABC/Dunhill has released a retrospective of his career. His stuff still sounds amazing, It is worth checking out.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

got me a complication

Talk Talk came blasting out of radio speakers all over the U.S. when kids were going back to school in 1966. No one had ever heard anything quite like it on Top 40 AM radio. No one had ever seen anything quite like the band, the Music Machine.

They dressed all in black, dyed their hair black and wore one black kid leather glove. They were punk before punk was cool.


The Music Machine (1965–1969) was an American band headed by singer-songwriter Sean Bonniwell based in Los Angeles.  


The group came started as The Ragamuffins in 1965, but became The Music Machine in 1966. The single "Talk Talk" was recorded at RCA studios on July 30, 1966.


Their first album, (Turn On) The Music Machine, was released in 1966 on the Original Sound label. Seven of the twelve tracks were originals, written by Bonniwell. One of these, "Talk Talk," became a Top 20 hit in the U.S. The follow-up single, "The People In Me," peaked at #66. Bonniwell blamed the weak showing of this single on bickering between the band's manager and a top record label executive. It is very similar to the story in the movie, That Thing You Do, written and directed by Tom Hanks. Four cover songs were included on their debut release, due to record label pressure, much to the disappointment of Bonniwell.


After a promotional tour of the U.S., the rest of the original line-up, which included Ron Edgar (drums), Mark Landon (guitar), Keith Olsen (bass) and Doug Rhodes (organ), left Bonniwell, due to internal conflicts. In 1967, Music Machine, essentially only Bonniwell at this point, were signed to Warner Bros. and re-named The Bonniwell Music Machine.  A self-titled LP was released that year, made up mostly of previously recorded singles with the original line-up. The recording spawned no big hits, despite the inclusion of a few more pop-oriented songs.


A third album was recorded but never released. In 2000, a Bonniwell Music Machine album called Ignition was released on Sundazed Records. This is a collection of songs from the unreleased 1969 album, as well as demo tracks from the band's Raggamuffin days in 1965.


In 2000, Bonniwell, from 1980 on a devout Christian, wrote about his life and The Music Machine in a biography called "Beyond The Garage," published by the small press publisher Christian Vision.


He claims he has “thousands” of recorded songs stashed away in boxes at his home which could have been hits.

Friday, July 17, 2009

a world without gordon

Gordon Waller, of the British rock duo, Peter and Gordon, died today in Connecticut. He was 64.

Peter and Gordon had several top ten hits in the 60s starting with "A World Without Love", written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The two Beatles also wrote "Nobody I Know" and "I Don't Want To See You Again" McCartney, under the pseudonym Bernard Webb wrote their hit "Woman". The string of chart-toppers ended with the song Lady Godiva.

After the group broke up, Peter (Asher) went on to produce records by Linda RonstadtJames TaylorCher and Diana Ross. Interestingly, Peter was the inspiration for the look adopted by Mike Myers for his Austin Powers role.

August 2005, Peter and Gordon reunited onstage for the first time in over 30 years, as part of two tribute concerts for Mike Smith of the Dave Clark Five in New York City. This was followed by more complete concerts at The Festival for Beatles Fans (formerly Beatlefest) conventions beginning the following year. Paul McCartney heard about the reunion shows, and sent a message to them congratulating them for deciding to reunite

An announcement on the Peter and Gordon MySpace page says: “We are deeply saddened to report that...Gordon Waller went into cardiac arrest and was taken to the emergency room. Despite intensive efforts on his behalf by hospital personnel, Gordon passed away...Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

paul mccartney returns to Ed Sullivan

For the first time in 45 years, Paul McCartney will be playing at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City. He will be a guest on the Dave Letterman Show tonight.

The last time he played in the Ed Sullivan Theater, he was with this little group that went on to do nothing much other than change the world. They were called the Beatles.  Here is a clip of his first appearance.

Monday, June 29, 2009

the death of Sky

Sky Saxon of the Seeds passed away on June 25. One of the great garage-rock bands of the 60s, Muddy Waters called the Seeds  “America’s Rolling Stones. The group had two hits, Pushin’ Too Hard and Can’t Seem to Make You Mine. 


Besides the music, the Seeds were involved in two of he strangest video artifacts from the 60s. One is an appearance on a typical sixties sit-com, The Mothers-in-Law . Listen carefully and you can hear their music referred to as “gassy.” The Seeds’ music was also used in a dance video  by the late, great Betty Page .

Saxon broke up the Seeds band in 1967 and formed the Sky Saxon Blues Band. After the release of one album, A Full Spoon of Seedy Blues, Saxon reestablished the Seeds but the group did not attract any mainstream attention.

Saxon released a number of albums under various band names including The Starry Seeds Band, Sky Saxon & FirewallKing and Shapes Have Fangs. 

In 2008, Saxon and the Seeds collaborated on some new songs and recordings with Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins.

You can read more about the seeds here



Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Sacred Cake by r2

It all started going wrong the day they agreed to let my little brother have a toy.  Okay, I guess it wasn’t really a toy, but it wasn’t anything special, either. It was just a telescope. Nothing professional. Just one of those things you can buy in any hobby shop or Sharper Image. No biggie.

Brad, my brother, was a science geek. He had begged and begged Dad for it. Of course, telescopes were on the Forbidden List, but what wasn’t? I mean, iPods are Forbidden. Vampire Weekend is Forbidden. You couldn’t live if you followed all the bullshit.

But Dad, although usually easy going, can be a bit of a stickler about certain rules and regs, so he took it up with the council and got the big okay.

For Brad’s twelfth birthday he got a telescope. Big whoop. He took it up to his room and looked through the little peep-hole for hours on end. Knock yourself out geek-boy, I had better things to do. And by better things I meant Amanda, who lived on the other side of the compound. Now you wanna talk Forbidden? That girl and I tore Forbidden to shreds.

It was one of the few nights I was home when lil’ bro came downstairs and asked Dad about the cake.

“What cake?” Dad gave Mom one of those looks.

“The cake in the middle of the road.”

 “What road?” Dad’s voice took on that edge. It was time for Brad to retreat. Do the “uh nevermind” bit. Maybe he could save himself.

“The little road behind the temple.” Sometimes my brother was such a dimwatt.

Dad got out of his chair and clomped upstairs. He took one look through the telescope, picked it up like a Louisville Slugger and started beating it against the sill until the thing was bent to hell, the lenses shattered and the windowsill was splinters.

“You were supposed to look at the stars, not spy on the sacred grounds behind the Temple,” Dad yelled.

“But what about the cake?”

“There was no cake. Understand? No cake. Don’t ever mention the cake again.” Let’s just say Dad hit a decibel level I’ve never heard before or since.

“But…” At that I gave Brad a shove. Even though he was a geek and a pain in my ass, he was still my brother and I didn’t want Dad to totally spazz.

Later in the week, I was with Dad cleaning up the garage. He was his usual mellow self.  “Imagine Brad thinking he saw a cake in the road,” I added a bit of chuckle to my voice.

Dad gripped the claw hammer he was putting away. His knuckles turned white and for a second I thought he might smash my head or something.

“I told you to never mention that again.” Actually he had told Brad, but I decided not to press the point. “So forget about it. We’ll talk about it when you become an Elder.”

Hmm. So there was a cake. “Yea. Sure thing, Dad. No prob.”

Well, I forgot all about the cake and the telescope. Amanda and I were too busy exploring each other in ways the Church condemns, parents discourage and our hormones dictate. Life was sa-weeet.

Then one night, about a month later, Brad came into my room and shut the door. “It’s real. I saw it.”

“What are you talking about?” I took the iPod buds out of my ears and turned around on my chair to face him.

“The cake. It’s a wedding cake. I saw it in the road. I stuck my finger in it and tasted the icing.”

“You were on the sacred grounds behind the Temple?”

‘Yea, I climbed the fence when the guards weren’t looking and ran to the road and there it was. I had to see if it was real.”

“You idiot. You’ll be banished if anyone ever finds out you were there.” Those words were just out of my mouth when the door opened. Dad was standing in the doorway. He had heard everything.

That night Dad and Brad left for a special meeting with the Elders. Only Dad returned.

Besides the Forbidden List and the lamb sacrifices and all the other hoo-ha, my religion has rituals I won’t know about until I become an Elder. One of them involves girls becoming “married” to the Church on the night of their 17th birthday. A girl puts a cake in the road behind the temple so the Elders know she is ready to consummate her vows. Some of the girls have gone into shock and died from the consummation ceremony.

They say my brother committed an unpardonable sin by touching the sacred cake. For that, he was stoned to death.

Ammonium nitrate gel makes dynamite look like firecrackers. I know. I tested it. I made some out of bags of fertilizer I stole from the communal barn. Put it in a bucket. Put some styrofoam painted like frosting on top and the sides. Those horny old bastards aren’t going to touch my Amanda. Tonight’s her 17th birthday. And when the Elders circle the “cake” and start in with their chanting, BOOM! Yea, they’re going to pay for what they did to Brad.

Sorry, Dad, but even though he was a pretty geeky, he was still my brother.