Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Busker Days: Bryan MacPherson, "OFD"

Do you recall those times in your youth when you were finally done with your town? Or perhaps you feel that way now. Your hometown was all that was holding you back, and finally the time comes and you leave. After some time that feeling subsides and for some people you begin to look a bit at your history. Maybe it was a bit rough out in the world, or maybe it was you realized how full a picture you and your friends had created in your youth. Some time passes and you just might take some pride in your hometown. After all, it made you what you are.

This week's busker recording speaks to this. OFD, Originally From Dorchester. Here's Bryan MacPherson doing OFD outside Montgomery BART a couple weeks ago.

Bryan plays locally and can be seen at the Uptown in Oakland on the 29th. He's working on his second CD. And his myspace page for your listening pleasure.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Song of the Week: "Police On My Back", The Clash

Few groups are in my fave list more than The Clash. In fact, we love them so much, we have written about them no less than three times already. The first time we featured Safe European Home. Then we compared their cover of Brand New Cadillac to the original. Then we talked about the brilliant Spanish Bombs from the perfect album, London Calling. Wowza. That said, I'm not a huge fan of their 1980 triple album, Sandanista! In general, I think the bulk of the 36 tracks The Clash laid out for this album feel unfinished and, at times, trying too hard to encompass too many musical styles. It lacks focus and edge.

But one of my favorite Clash songs is on this album. And it's not even written by members of the Clash. It's a cover of a song written by Eddy Grant -- who would go on to have a massive hit in the US in the mid-80s. But this is a Grant song from when he was a member of The Equals, a ground breaking multi-racial band that mixed British Psychedelia with Reggae during a brief run in the late 60s. The song is Police On My Back and The Clash's version is sung by Mick Jones and promotes the "British Siren" guitar riff, inherent to the original version, to the front and center of the revved up Clash cover. It's a fast-paced romp that gives The Clash version an urgency that the original doesn't quite have.

As a bonus, here is a You Tube link to the Equals original. Let us know what you think by commenting below.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Song of The Week: "Friend Is A Four Letter Word," Cake

I once read somewhere that there are two types of people in this world. People who get Cake, and people who don't get Cake. I think that is pretty damn true. Count me as one who gets Cake. I absolutely love the stripped down approach the band takes to their music. Raw, reverb-free guitar and vocals that are spoken as much as sung. Trumpet, surprisingly funky drum work, deft bass work and tasteful keyboard all add up to an eclectic mix. To me, they are like a Wes Anderson film. Let's say...The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou. Not for everyone, but quite rewarding for those whose humor and tastes happen to match up with the art nicely.

The Sacramento band broke nationally with their excellent 1996 album, Fashion Nugget. That nearly flawless album featured the excellent break-out hit, The Distance. It was the song that got them out of the KDVS play rotation and onto MTV. Right after that song, comes a very different song on the album: Friend Is A Four Letter Word. It's our SoTW. The song was written by singer John McCrea. What grabs me most about this song are the spartan lyrics. Quite frankly, they never fail to get my attention with their twist of word play and restraint. it says so much with so little.
To me, coming from you.
Friend is a four letter word.
End is the only part of the word, that I heard.
Call me morbid, or absurd,
But to me, coming from you
Friend is a four letter word.
There isn't much more. But one doesn't need more. I think it speaks volumes on it's own. Former guitarist Greg Brown (who, incidentally, wrote The Distance) plays extremely tasteful guitar work with a tone that quickly identifies the band as Cake. It's a tone born from a 1960s Guild Starfire III (think The Kinks) run thru a distortion pedal run through a 1960s Sears Silvertone amp. It's a great, distinctive sound, and Brown gets all the props in the world from me for going a very different direction from most other guitarists. Vincent di Fiore's trumpet work adds a wonderful latin tone to the song.

On a side note, someone once informed me that Cake opened for my band, The Lionhearted. It was back in 1991 at a house party for a cool gal named Michelle Piniera. I honestly do not remember that. I was even told by someone else that Greg Brown paid special attention to the use of our Silvertone Aristocrat guitar and Vox amps. Again, I don't recall this and have only the vaguest memory of the show at all. If anyone on this blog recalls this or can confirm it, please do so.

Otherwise, enjoy.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Song of the week: The Runaways -- Cherry Bomb

This group and song are sooooo different than last week's SoTW. Where the last song was a nice cheese and olive plate with some prosciutto and a chardonnay, this one is more corn dog and a Coke. The song is the enduring, highly entertaining, and lyrically perfect, Cherry Bomb. The band is The Runways, perhaps best known for spawning Joan Jett, Lita Ford and Cherie Curry. Cherry Bomb, an ominous song to mommy and daddy about how your teenage girls are about to run amok and throw your values out the window, was written by Joan Jett and producer, self-promoter extraordinaire, Kim Fowley.

In the song Cherie Curry expounds about her girls gone wild attitude:
Hey street boy, what's your style?
Your dead end dreams don't make you smile
I'll give you something to live for
Have you and grab you until you're sore

Hell daddy, hello mom
I'm your ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb
Hello world, I'm your wild girld
I'm your ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb!
Perfect, perfect, perfect! These gals were definitely out to scare some people and titillate others. And this song must have been dead on target when it was released in early 1976.

Just this past year, a movie about The Runaways, aptly titled, The Runaways, was released. It stars Dakota Fanning as Curry and Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett. (trailer below). It's an okay movie with very solid performances. Kim Fowley is portrayed by Michael Shannon, who tries to get to that creepy space that seems to be Kim Fowley. I had the opportunity to meet Fowley twice. Once at a party in San Francisco and then a few years later at a show for the Tell-Tale-Hearts in Los Angeles. The first meeting was very unsettling. The second one...I stayed away from him as much as I could. After the show, a friend of mine told me stories about Fowley and The Runaways that sounded all too familiar to my first meeting with the foul mouthed producer who made lots of promises at high costs.

Play it loud.

Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!