Mornings with Brian Phillips
Bri's Ongoing Random Top 2013 Commentary
January 2nd, 2013
#1525 Generation X "Kiss Me Deadly"
Generation X is of course the 1975-1981 punk band fronted by Billy Idol. That got me thinking back to my radio mentors Crow and West from the Seattle days. Years before I produced them at the late great KXRX they were hosting afternoons at crosstown rocker KISW. Billy Idol washed up at their doorstep one day in 1984. Mike West described Idol's hue as "sick green." He was loaded and quite profanely trying to pick up every female who called in to talk to him live on the air. I'll have to ask West if he still has the tape. It was so bad Entertainment Tonight picked up the story.
#1524 Foo Fighters "Stacked Actors"
This marks one of many songs the megalomaniacal Courtney Love swears is about her personally. Hell Foo Fighters could do an album called "Songs Courtney Thinks Are About Her" all by their lonesome. I'll let you be the judge:
Oh mirror mirror, you're coming in clear I'm finally somewhere in between I'm impressed, what a beautiful chest I never meant to make a big scene Will you resign to the latest design You look so messy when you dress up in dreams One more for hire, a wonderful liar I think it's time we all should come clean Stack dead actors, stacked to the rafters Line up the bastards all I want is the truth Hey hey now, can you fake it Can you make it look like we want Hey hey now, can you take it And we cry when they all die blonde God bless, what a sensitive mess Yeah, but things aren't always what they seem Your teary eyes, your famous disguise Never knowing who to believe See through, yeah but what do you do When you're just another aging drag queen Stack dead actors, stacked to the rafters Line up the bastards all I want is the truth Hey hey now, can you fake it Can you make it look like we want Hey hey now, can you take it And we cry when they all die blonde Stack dead actors, stacked to the rafters Line up all the bastards all I want is the truth Stack dead actors, stacked to the rafters Line up all the bastards And we cry when they all die blonde (Bridge) Hey hey now, can you fake it Can you make it look like we want Hey hey now, can you take it And we cry when they all die blonde Stack dead actors, stacked to the rafters Line up all the bastards all I want is the truth Stack dead actors, stacked to the rafters Line up the bastards We cry when they all die blonde
#1517 Smithereens "In A Lonely Place"
Their success beginning in the Mid 80's was really something. MTV had a stranglehold on the music business at the time. Attempting to have a commercially successful career with a band of regular looking guys has always been incredibly difficult. The gatekeepers try to weed them out, especially then. And yet there they were. The fact that The Smithereens were able to hammer out a solid run is a testiment to their song craft and excellent musicianship. For my money one of rock's great drummers is their Dennis Diken. His playing is visceral and yet very tasteful. Check this!
#1513 Paul Westerberg "First Glimmer"
He's hardly the American Syd Barrett, but the one time Replacements leader is a bit of a homebody. Never mind getting the band back together for what would be a lucrative reunion, it's hard to get Westerberg to release solo material these days. His last several solo releases have been self released downloads recorded on the quick and released on the cheap. Not that he owes us anything, but I'd like to see him get back in the game with a bit more vigor. As for getting the Mats back together? It would be half Mats at best. Original guitar player Bob Stinson died years ago. Ditto for latter day drummer Steve Foley. Original drummer Chris Mars has no use to the band or for music it seems. He's been an artist for years now. Bob's "replacement" Slim Dunlap has been in the hospital for months meanwhile prompting Westerberg and Tommy Stinson to record an e.p. of covers to help defray his medical expenses. Stinson's gig with Guns N Roses might well preclude him from signing on for some version of The Replacements with Westerberg. Several weeks ago though Paul did leave the door open a crack.
#1507 Dramarama "Haven't Got A Clue"
The Top 2013 always serves as an excellent reminder that Dramarama were a really good band. We have several of their songs in the countdown, and this is perhaps my favorite. Loose associating a bit band member Chris Carter produced this 2003 documentary on LA Dj/Scenester Rodney Bigenheimer, a long time champion of Dramarama. We may have to screen this one some day on Reelin and Rockin.
#1506 Ben Kweller "Penny On The Train Track"
Ben at Summerfest. His hair was making his head hot so he gave himself a trim.
#1502 R.E.M. "Don't Go Back To Rockville"
Say what you want about Wikipedia.... I understand the limitations, but for our purposes here it can be quite useful. Who knew for instance that this song was originally intended to be much different, and the country arrangement was meant as a joke on manager Bertis Downs.
#1498 Nirvana "Pennyroyal Tea"
DGC records recalled this single planned for April of 1994 after Kurt Kobain took his own life. It remains a pricey artifact to this day.
#1497 Blondie "Accidents Never Happen"
Debbie Harry purdy.
#1495 Janes Addiction "Summertime Rolls"
After a 1992 radio interview Henry Rollins told my co-host Scott Vanderpool and myself a story about Perry Farrell. It's a doozy. He said if we ever told the tale in public he would track us down and kill us. I believe him to this day. If you'd like to hear the story buy me a beer.
#1493 Cracker "Get Off This"
In 1994 Cracker played the former Polaris Amphitheater. They were third on the bill with Spin Doctors and Gin Blossoms. All three bands however were riding million selling albums. With backstage pass in hand I availed myself to the spread. I just remember the jumbo prawns. Those were the days. Hard to find jumbo prawns back there now.
#1491 New York Dolls "Personality Crisis"
In the past six months I've read Keith Richards' "Life" and Peter Criss' "Makeup To Breakup." Both books relay stories of what it was like to a long haired rock musician attempting to tour America in the 70's. There are parts of this land where people like Richards and Criss would literally be taking their lives in their hands even grabbing a burger at a road side diner. Criss was chased from a southern eatery by two truckers who were likely going to kill him. I bring this up because while it may seem like a quaint notion now, bands who presented themselves as the New York Dolls did were really quite radical. The Dolls also kicked ass. I love this tune, but my favorite is "Trash." The band re did this tune for the mostly solid 2009 album "Cuz I Sez So," but it pales to this smokin shootout.
#1229 Bauhaus "Bela Lugosi Is Dead"
Front man Peter Murphy hung upside down like a bat singing this classic at Coachella back in 2005. No it's not easy.
From Spin Magazine: How exactly does one prepare for performing a nine-minute song while hanging upside down like a bat? There is a maximum amount of time before you black out; it's 15 minutes or something. I was okay with that. So I got some hanging boots they use in Pilates exercise, and during rehearsals I got my crossbar set up. The technical difficulty is in the muscles. The vocal muscles are in reverse because of gravity, so you have to teach these new muscles how to sing.
#1225 Joy Division "She's Lost Control"
In college I discovered New Order first. I was a college radio nerd and Warner Brothers sent me an advance cassette of "Lowlife." It wasn't the sort of thing I usually gravitated towards, but there was something about it... I think Peter Hook's bass playing is what drew me to the music. Soon I was hooked. The basement of our campus bookstore often featured a vast sale of cutout records..... Albums with notches in the spine to signify they were being sold off as remainders for 10 cents on the dollar. I would spend hours down there digging. One day I found Portuguese pressings of the first two Joy Division albums "Unknown Pleasures" and "Closer." You want to talk about a revelation. I played those two records to death. I suppose that should have landed me in the infirmary. I managed to survive and to this day those albums are essential listening.
#1224 Echo and the Bunnymen "The Killing Moon"
Another band that captivated me about the same time as Joy Division was Liverpool's Echo and the Bunnymen. As U2 was breaking out in America, the Bunnymen continued to hide in relative obscurity on these shores. Mercurial front man Ian McCulloch says Bono pulled him aside once and advised on how his band might make it here.
"'You gotta come out here for three months', is what he said to me. Three months? I can't spent three minutes in Birkenhead without going daft, let alone America. I'd already smelt a rat. I thought, 'hang on -- is that what you have to do?' I thought if you were brilliant, people just knew. And that was 30 years ago. Christ knows what you'd have to do to get anywhere now. You have all these wannabes always on the Facebook, always Twittering someone. I don't have a computer. I didn't need one to write The Killing Moon."
I wish I could find the video referenced in the above piece. Echo appeared on network TV here during those heady days.
In one infamous incident, the Bunnymen were paraded before the cameras by CBS News as the hottest new band from Britain. Instead of flourishing in the spotlight, they visibly shrivelled. "We were sitting on a settee and the guy asked us, 'well, what do you think of America?' There was a pregnant pause and then Will [Sergeant, Bunnymen guitarist] says, 'I hate it'. So I say, 'no you don't'. And he says, 'actually I do ... I'd rather be back home'. Wow, that was our first big interview in America. So there was no telling us."
#1219 Teenage Fanclub "What You Do To Me"
Spin Magazine's 1991 Album Of The Year was "Bandwagonesque" from which we take this track. Don't get me wrong, I love this album, but Spin never lived down the album they passed up for the honor.... Nirvana's "Nevermind." It's a great time to remember as just last month Spin announced their were ceasing print publication.
#1216 XTC "Earn Enough For Us"
This was the first single from their brilliant 1986 Todd Rundgren produced "Skylarking." That may surprise some as "Dear God" was clearly the most famous song on the record, but on original pressings it was no where to be found. Turns out a song espousing Atheism was a non starter for Geffen records and "Dear God" was buried as a b-side on this promo e.p. As the story goes a Dj in Dallas of all places began spinning the song and soon it had caught on across America forcing Geffen to reissue the record in 1987 with "Dear God." A miracle of sorts if you will.
As for the album, the band bristled under Rundgren's heavy hand and the sessions were said to be fraught with acrimony. Many years later XTC leader Andy Partidge acknowledged that Rundgren had brought out the best in them.
As an aside "Earn Enough For Us" takes on a different meaning in retrospect. Somewhere in my attic is a tape of my interview with Andy Partridge around the turn of the century. As I remember it he was going through a nasty divorce and spent a good chunk of our confab trashing his estranged wife's profligate credit card spending. One of my all time favorite interviews.
#1208 Ben Folds "Landed"
When you're young and things are going horribly wrong the last thing you want to hear is what my dad always says; "you know son there's a life's plan." This was like fingernails on a chalkboard..... but he's right of course.
A story Ben Folds loves to tell is the time he lost his music school scholarship to The University Of Miami (Fl) music school. Folds had broken his hand the night before a jury recital on the drums, his chosen academic instrument. Forced to perform with cast Folds failed miserably, threw his drums in Lake Osceola and walked away. Had he passed would his career had taken the same arc? Probably not.
#1202 David Bowie "Suffragette City"
David Bowie explaining Ziggy Stardust to William S. Burroughs in Rolling Stone? To be the fly on the wall that day....
The time is five years to go before the end of the earth. It has been announced that the world will end because of lack of natural resources. Ziggy is in a position where all the kids have access to things that they thought they wanted. The older people have lost all touch with reality and the kids are left on their own to plunder anything. Ziggy was in a rock-and-roll band and the kids no longer want rock-and-roll. There's no electricity to play it. Ziggy's adviser tells him to collect news and sing it, 'cause there is no news. So Ziggy does this and there is terrible news. 'All the young dudes' is a song about this news. It's no hymn to the youth as people thought. It is completely the opposite. [...]
The end comes when the infinites arrive. They really are a black hole, but I've made them people because it would be very hard to explain a black hole on stage. [...]
Ziggy is advised in a dream by the infinites to write the coming of a Starman, so he writes 'Starman', which is the first news of hope that the people have heard. So they latch onto it immediately...The starmen that he is talking about are called the infinites, and they are black-hole jumpers. Ziggy has been talking about this amazing spaceman who will be coming down to save the earth. They arrive somewhere in Greenwich Village. They don't have a care in the world and are of no possible use to us. They just happened to stumble into our universe by black hole jumping. Their whole life is travelling from universe to universe. In the stage show, one of them resembles Brando, another one is a Black New Yorker. I even have one called Queenie, the Infinite Fox...Now Ziggy starts to believe in all this himself and thinks himself a prophet of the future starmen. He takes himself up to the incredible spiritual heights and is kept alive by his disciples. When the infinites arrive, they take bits of Ziggy to make them real because in their original state they are anti-matter and cannot exist in our world. And they tear him to pieces on stage during the song 'Rock 'n' roll suicide'. As soon as Ziggy dies on stage the infinites take his elements and make themselves visible.
#1195 Tracy Chapman "Fast Car"
From the Cleveland native's self titled 1988 debut album. I've always marveled at this song being a top 10 pop single. It's a very sad song, and this was during the 80's when all the top 40 people were wearing pastels. By way of comparison this song was a number 1 earlier that year.
#1187 Zwan "Honestly"
Not the purveyors of door to door frozen meats, but rather a short lived side project fronted by once and again Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan. Zwan's one album "Mary Star of The Sea" has already been out a decade which is crazy to think about. What is not unexpected is that the band will never reform and Corgan despises all involved.
"thousands of lies upon lies upon lies. It's a shame because there's tons of music unreleased that will just sit in a box until I can stomach it. You'll never see Zwan. I'll never go anywhere near those people. Ever. I mean, I detest them. You can put that in capital letters. Bad people. James and D'arcy are good people. They might be misguided people, but they're good people."
Thank you Billy as always you make my job easier. As an aside one member of Zwan Matt Sweeney was once in a pretty cool band called Chavez.
#1183 The Vapors "Turning Japanese"
There are at least two songs in the countdown about masturbation. Green Day "Longview" will be in there somewhere.... and this song.
#1180 Lou Reed "Walk On The Wild Side"
Without question the dirtiest hit single of all time. #16 on the pop charts in early 1973. It should be pointed out that RCA provided radio with a version sans the reference to oral sex.
Lou closed his Lollapalooza set in 2009 with "Wild Side," but for this long time fan at last seeeing Lou live there were two clear highlights. The Velvet Underground's "I'm Waiting For The Man," and the harrowing "Waves Of Fear" from Lou's 1982 album The Blue Mask.
#927 Cracker "This Is Cracker Soul"
It's been years since original bass player Davey Faragher has been in Cracker. He was in the band for the self titled 1992 debut though which includes this track, and a year later got a writing credit on Cracker's biggest hit "Low."
Faragher has enjoyed a truly unique career arc. As a teenager and young 20 something he played in a band with his siblings called The Faragher Brothers. They recorded and toured with very moderate success on the now defunct major ABC Records, and Polydor as well. As you can tell from the below they were..... very much of their times.
Since leaving the family Faragher has racked up credits with a stunning variety of artists. He played with The Monkees for their original mid 80's comeback. He's worked for David Crosby, Sheryl Crow, Buddy Guy, John Hiatt, Wanda Jackson.... I could go on. I swear when I interviewed Cracker in 92 Faragher told me he played with Diana Ross for some Vegas revue she was doing. Faragher was part of the house band "Scrantoncity" for the Phyllis' Wedding episode of The Office in 2008.
For my money though Faragher's crowning career achievement has been his decade plus with Elvis Costello in his latter day band The Imposters. It couldn't have been easy joining what amounts to The Attractions minus Bruce Thomas. There's a reason this guy has never been without work.
#916 Catherine Wheel "Judy Staring At The Sun"
Weird fact. Catherine Wheel frontman Rob Dickinson's cousin is Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden.
#908 The Dead Boys "Sonic Reducer"
Rooting around You Tube for some Dead Boys related content I stumbled across this from 1983 and MTV's The Cutting Edge. The late Stiv Bators, by then fronting Lords Of The New Church debating a minister.
#903 Bjork "Human Behavior"
This was the first single from Bjork's 1993 album "Debut." The title is meant to be taken literally. The former Sugarcubes front woman was starting anew. This however isn't her "debut." As a 12 year old in Iceland Bjork recorded this album. I've never heard it, but I see it is still quite the collectible. Beware.... This album was reissued in 2007. If you want the valuable version, buy the original.
#64 Pearl Jam "Corduroy"
We all like to believe our favorite bands are akin to a gang; of having bonds with one and other that are unspoken and unbreakable. By the time Pearl Jam began recording "Vitology" in 1994 they were anything but.... Stone Gossard stopped mediating band disputes and thought of quitting. Mike McCready went to rehab. Drummer Dave Abbruzzese was fired midway through the sessions. The band was engaged in their quixotic war with Ticketmaster. Eddie Vedder filled the power vacuum in and especially with songs like "Spin The Black Circle" took the band in a more uncompromising direction. This could have been Pearl Jam's final album. Today of course we find a happier, healthier band comfortable with their place as one of the biggest bands in the world, and more importantly, enjoying one and other when they gather to record and tour.
In the below from the outstanding documentary PJ20 we find the band in early 1995 producing their Monkeywrench Radio special. I remember we aired the program on CD101.