Monday, January 2, 2012

Song of the Week: The Music Machine - No Girl Gonna Cry

Sean Bonniwell passed away two weeks ago after a battle with lung cancer. Sean Bonniwell is one of those guys who made great, inventive and forward thinking music. And like fellow Angelenos Arthur Lee and Emitt Rhodes, the quality of his music didn't necessarily translate into sales or fame. Sean Bonniwell did pen a certified hit for his group, The Music Machine. The song was the great Talk Talk (see vid below). But he, and the rest of the band put out really good quality music that regularly equaled or even surpassed the high standard of Talk Talk.
I never had the opportunity to meet Sean Bonniwell but I knew many people who did. The dark lyrics, black clothing (and one black glove) and gruff exterior apparently stood in contradiction to the nice and engaging personality that was the true character of Sean Bonniwell. I first became aware of the Music Machine in about 1984 when Rhino Records put out a retrospective of the band. I was immediately drawn to the music and the look. About the same time I came across Mike Stax's second issue of Ugly Things fanzine which featured an interview with Bonniwell. Stax's interview showed a man who loved crafting music and loved exploring new ideas both musically and lyrically. The scooping up of "everything Music Machine" was now my personal ambition.

Learning as many as the songs as I could figure out with my then limited ear was an obsession. Thankfully, the Ugly Things issue shown above even came with sheet music! These were not your run of the mill 1960s garage songs. These were well crafted tunes with introspective lyrics and difficult to learn music.
Our Song of the Week understandably celebrates the music of Sean Bonniwell. The song I chose is one that failed to find release during the lifetime of the the Music Machine. I did so to show how good they were. If a song this good didn't make the cut, then you know how good the other stuff is. The song is No Girl Gonna Cry and it first came into my playlist around 1986 or '87 when a German traveler some how talked his way into crashing on my living room floor while he worked on a fanzine. While in California he found his way to Sean Bonniwell and came back with a tape of unreleased songs, demos and alt. versions of Music Machine songs. I recall a stunning, live, in-studio version of The Eagle Never Hunts The Fly filled with different lyrics and the occasional mistake. It showed how strong the band was. The tape was a gift to this kid from an appreciative Sean Bonniwell. That German cat put out his fanzine, called Splendid, and in it he included a flexi-disc of two unreleased Music Machine songs. You are now listening to a digitization of one of those songs from that flexi-disc. The song did finally see a wider release in the late 90's, but I prefer you listen to that plastic flex version.

RIP Sean Bonniwell


  1. Sean will be missed. Thanks for the Ugly Things shout-out. Great song choice. I remember the first time I heard it, when Sean played it for me at his apartment in 1983 the day I interviewed him for UT#2. He played us a bunch of unreleased tracks, but "No Girl Gonna Cry" was the first and it blew my mind. Hard to believe he was only 43 years old at the time. he seemed like a wise old man.

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  3. I just saw a documentary last night called Sound City. It's produced by Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame. The doc is about the go-to studio in LA in the 70s and 80s. Featured prominently in that documentary is Music Machine engineer, Keith Olsen. Check it out kids.

    That's him at 1;32 in this trailer.