Monday, March 30, 2009

Song of the Week: "Sing, Sing, Sing", Los Straitjackets

With the amount of surf music the On the Flip-Side staff listens to, it's a real wonder it's taken this long to get a good surf instrumental elevated to Song of the Week. Praise reverb, the wait is over. This week we sample the fine instrumental skills of Nashville-based surf merchants, Los Straitjackets as they put their thumping interpretation to Sing, Sing, Sing, a number written by Benny Goodman back in, I think, 1937. 

For those of you not hip to a live Los Straitjackets showhere is a little primer to help you get caught up. The band performs a relentless attack of instrumentals while decked out in Mexican wrestling masks, they introduce their songs only in a rapid-fire Spanish that will make you think you are part of the Inquisition, and perform deadly serious unison "dance" moves that, admittedly, may make Gene Kelly raise an eyebrow askance. And if you are really lucky, you get to see the masked musicians perform with The Pontani Sisters, three Brooklyn based sisters who interpret the band's instrumentals with a PG rated Go-Go/Vaudevillian/Burlesque-like show that will have the audience laughing all night. And on a really good night, Kaiser George, the Scottish Buddy Holly look-alike will MC the show and throw in a twist number to boot. Or maybe Big Sandy will jump in to add some vocals to a number of Rockabilly tracks. And to wrap it all up, the whole gang will stand at the exit and thank you for coming and wish you a safe drive home. 

All this adds up to an evening of great entertainment that is good for the whole family as well as the very serious connoisseurs of surf music. In short, the Flip-Side brain-trust suggests you check out Los Straitjackets' tour schedule (in support of their new Yep-Roc album, The Further Adventures of Los Straitjackets) and have a night of total entertainment, the likes of which, one doesn't get to see much anymore. The Christmas shows are particularly entertaining as this low-res video of Sleigh Ride will hint at.

In the meantime, enjoy this thumper SOTW from Los Straitjackets and get ready for the bestest week you ever had. 

Friday, March 27, 2009

Video Diary: Mel Torme - "I'm Coming Home"

He's so uncool, he's cool. It's a wonderful melody with a nice little jazz arrangement. Give it a try. You might surprise yourself.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mr. GeeBee's Cassette Tape Trials: Das Damen & Celibate Rifles


ALBUM SIDE A: Jupiter Eye

ARTIST SIDE B: The Celibate Rifles
ALBUM SIDE B: Turgid Miasma of Existence

DESCRIPTION OF MEDIA: Home-recorded Maxell XLII-60 (both recorded from vinyl)

IMPRESSIONS: This was one of my ill-fated attempts at getting two albums onto a short (60 minutes instead of 90) cassette. I'm not certain of the reason for this, but I did own a Walkman-type cassette player that seemed to have trouble playing longer cassettes (they would be really slow and wobbly towards the end of a side). This tape may have been a concession to that cassette player. Unfortunately, I could not fit the entirety of both albums onto the tape. Jupiter Eye spilled over onto side B, and I think I only got about half of Turgid Miasma. The sound on this tape is pretty crappy these days due to poor recording (too "hot") and over-use. Its muddy, distorted, crackly, and uneven.

Jupiter Eye is the only Das Damen album I am familiar with. (I did buy a later album titled, I think, "Triskadekaphobia", but was unimpressed and sold it soon afterward.) This band didn't seem to get much attention from either critics or listeners during their "heyday" (mid-/late-'80s), and faded away pretty quietly (despite, or partially because of, an ill-fated publicity stunt involving Michael Jackson and the Beatles). On this album, they sound a bit like Husker Du with somewhat more "classic rock" leanings, which means they sound a lot like Twin Tone-era Soul Asylum (with psychedelic flavors substituted for that band's rootsy flirtations). The production on the album is pretty grim, the singing just barely adequate, and the rhythm section is kinda suspect (though some of the latter is, I think, an artifact of the poor drum-set miking). Still, I really like the overall idea. Tempo- and dynamic-changes, loud fuzzy guitars, some good (almost) melodies and harmonies, and a kind of "druggy jam" feel. I guess this album (released in 1986 or 1987) could be considered proto-"stoner rock" (a la Fu Manchu, Kyuss, etc) as well as proto-"grunge", though I doubt they had much direct influence on either of those genres/scenes.

The Celibate Rifles are an excellent Australian punk band that began in the late '70's/early '80's and, I think, continues to play to this day. What Radio Birdman was to the MC5 (a younger, more aggressive update) the Rifles are to Radio Birdman. Their playing is energetic but capable (i.e. its generally loud and fast but never sloppy), lyrics flirt with some politics and social commentary but don't usually get too strident, and the vocals are gruff (sometimes with a higher and smoother tandem voice) and quite unlike a lot of the adenoidal screaming of many American contemporaries. On this album (or at least, the half that made it onto this cassette), they also add some nice, unexpected instrumentation like heavily-echoed slide guitar and piano. I highly recommend anyone with an interest in "traditional" punk rock (I know, that's a totally stupid term but if you know what I mean I'm talking to you) to check these guys out—you'll probably like them. Unfortunately, I suspect a lot of their albums, if available, are really pricey imports. Here is a live clip of the Rifles playing "Bill Bonney Regrets" from Turgid Miasma of Existence.

VERDICT: Trash it, if for no other reason than it is so worn out and sounds so crappy. I will miss this tape because I do really like both albums, but it is just too unlistenable in its present form. I would buy both albums on CD if I could find them relatively cheap, but I'd guess Jupiter Eye may not be available, and Turgid Miasma of Existence would be prohibitively expensive.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Song of the Week: "Safe European Home", The Clash

Brargwahhh! That's my written primal scream. (I'm not sure one can legitimately write a primal scream, but that is not really germane to our conversation.) It's the primal scream I often want to make when I am listening to The Clash, one of my all time favorite bands.

Sometime around 1981, JBC-15 and I were hitting the downtrodden record stores of Sacramento, California (some of the same ones he mentions in his must-read tribute to Sacramento-ish band, The Cramps) when I picked up the UK pressing of the first Clash album, The Clash. I didn't know anything about them other than some word of mouth banter and the occasional Rolling Stone article about their exploits. It was love at first listen. So the next time we hit the dust bins in Sacramento which masqueraded as used record stores, I very logically pulled the next Clash album, Give 'Em Enough Rope. Man, oh man, was I ever disappointed. The album had a much more rigid, even, dare I say?, heavy metal feel to it. It sounded little like the first brilliant album. The songs were weak and Sandy Pearlman's production was awful, slick and totally wrong for the garage band. I filed it away and quickly moved on to their flawless magnum opus, London Calling and never went back to Rope. 

Fast forward to about 18 months ago when a friend of mine named his third child Rudy. I of course immediately emailed back to him with some probably-not-so-clever quip about the wonderful London Calling song, Rudie Can't Fail. (he had no idea what I was talking about). As I listened to that song 834 times in a row something kept nagging at me in the back of my head...didn't The Clash have an earlier song that incorporated a line about how some rudie couldn't fail? The search was on. Nothing on the first UK pressing of The Clash. Nothing on the much different and equally good US pressing. A handful of singles? Black Market Clash 10" ep? (I know, technically it was released after London Calling, but the songs pre-dated Calling.) Nope. That left Give 'Em Enough Rope. I dreaded putting it on as the sting of disappointment was still throbbing in my psyche. Vwalah! Rudie was right at the end of the first song on the album. And dang, that first song is a stunner (sadly, I continue to think the album as a whole is still lacking).

That opening number of their 1978 album is our Song of the Week.  Safe European Home is a bullet train ride about an eye opening trip to Jamaica that the band undertook earlier that year. The idealistic young Londoners went to Jamaica to record and pay tribute to their dub-Reggae idols. But instead they were met with antipathy, racial prejudice and were subjected to a robbery at gunpoint inside the studio at which they were preparing to record. Feeling like carrion on a desert road, the lads quickly retreated back to their safe European homes, took stock of their ambitions, licked their wounds, picked up some new equipment and went to writing. 

The song features the Pictures of Lily power chord attack, a nice little upbeat ska-riff at the end of the song (under the "Rudie, Can't Fail" refrain) and some wonderful call and response between Joe and Mick: "Whoa, the harder they come in the home of the old bluebeat (mick: where'd you go?) Yeah, I'd stay and be a tourist but I can't take that gun play (where'd you go?)." Each an elemental component of what would become the standard in modern punk as practiced by bands like RancidGreen Day, and Offspring.

If nothing else, this is a tantalizing  hint at what the trailblazing band would do musically and lyrically with the Rudie, Can't Fail refrain and back and forth vocals on London Calling. The two songs are wonderful to play next to each other to chart the growth of the band. Enjoy and have a wonderful week.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Flip-Side Original Song Project!

Hey all you original songsters!  Yeah you!  This site is the venue for you to put up those little gems that the world has not yet heard.  That's right.  Send it in or provide us a link to it on your server, write a little description about it and up it goes. It's that easy!

So far we've had songs about imminent assassination, alien killers, repressed sexuality and a wake for some guy, among others.  What's next?

Send songs and description to morganyoungideas[at]gmail[dot]com.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Original Song Project: "A Wake For Seamus", The Pygmy Ponyz

Scant little known about this band that comes from New Orleans, Louisiana other than the song they have submitted here and a handful of mostly inappropriate pictures they sent along with the music file. The band goes by the name of the Pygmy Ponyz and their submitted song is entitled A Wake For Seamus. It's a nice little instrumental with celtic influences.

Cheers and keep 'em coming.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Song of the Week: Garnet Mimms -- As Long As I Have You

If I throw out the name Garnet Mimms I bet you'll say, "who?" I'll also bet you know his work even if you don't know his name. Garnet Mimms, if he is known at all, is probably best known for being the cat whom originally recorded Cry Baby ('63), the song with which Janis Joplin would become inextricably associated.

But Mimms was much more than a forgotten one hit wonder. The Soul and Gospel singer from Philadelphia cut a series of records in the early part of the 60's that would be picked up by eager British artists who often turned Mimms' work into London standards. To point, I, for one, was introduced to Mimms by The Who who aptly covered Anytime You Want Me for the flip-side of their second US single in 1965. The Rolling Stones and the Pretty Things both covered Cry To Me in 1964 and Van Morrison's first band, Them, covered It Won't Hurt Half As Much in 1965.

Mimms had pipes that naturally bring about comparisons to Sam Cooke, Solomon Burke and Jackie Wilson. But for a bevy of ill-defined reasons he never attained notoriety like those luminaries. Regardless, he recorded first-rate material (often written by his producers Bert Berns and Jerry Ragovoy) with production values and musicianship that are head turning.

Our Song of the Week is my favorite Mimms song, which is really saying something. As Long As I Have You was recorded for United Artists in 1964 and was written by Jerry Ragovoy under the pseudonym of Norman Meade. That's the same name he would use to pen Time Is On My Side (for Irma Thomas) and Piece of My Heart (for Erma Franklin), which, in cover form, would become monster hits for the Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin respectively. But As Long as I Have You never attained that kind of second life. In fact, the song was never released as a single. Instead it was relegated to album filler. 

Opening with three guitars riffs -- one with vibrato -- building on top of each other, the song is filled out with horns, haunting back-up vocals expertly mixed (dig that reverby "oh-oh-oh" at 1:51) and, of course, Mimms' monster voice. I have no idea who the studio musicians are but they give the song a wonderful, unexpected quality to it. To point, linger on that odd descending baritone riff that is first introduced at the eleven second mark.

In the end, this song is much more than the artist's name on it. The songwriter/producers deserve a huge load of credit as do the nameless studio musicians. If you dig this song (and how can you not?) I strongly suggest you check out other Garnet Mimms records as the quality of song is consistently stellar.

Enjoy, and have a flip-sidey week.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Original Song Project: Morgan Young -- Buzz, Buzz, Buzz

So there I was at a lovely little Christmas party as our hostess spoke humorously about her friend in NY who had received nothing but sex toys from Santa. The subject of our story was apparently quite abuzz at the thought of her cache. My thoughts quickly turned, as most young men's naturally do in this situation, to...Cormac McCarthy. Specifically to a throw away line he has in his book No Country For Old Men in which Lewellyn Moss returns home to his broken down trailer and his lonely wife. The wife starts peppering Llewelyn with questions as to his whereabouts and Llewelyn's off-the-cuff retort (and the general scene in the trailer) fill out the rest of the musical image.

So, with those dual images of sad little trailers in west Texas and Santa bringing a bag of sex toys rattling around my head, I quickly wrote and recorded this little rockabilly song and called it Buzz, Buzz, Buzz. The instruments are a Gibson SJ200 acoustic, Gibson EB2D bass, and a Fender Telecaster equipped with a Bigsby.

I hope you enjoy.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Song of the Week: The Band with Emmylou Harris - Evangeline

Last week a part of the brain trust that is On the Flip-Side explored a selected work by Gram Parsons entitled A Song For You. But as we looked back on our selection -- as we like to do -- we felt we failed to satisfactorily credit Emmylou Harris for her huge contribution to the success of the beautiful Parsons song. Well, lucky for all of us, Emmylou Harris returns for a second straight week (an honor not ever bestowed before) on our Song of the Week selection.

This week's installment finds the crack staff at Flip-Side's Rocky Mountain offices listening to copious amounts of the Canadian/American band, The Band. In particular we have been listening to the Robbie Robertson penned waltz, Evangeline as it was filmed on a soundstage in San Francisco by Martin Scorcese for the must-own 1978 film, The Last Waltz.

The song demonstrates vintage Robertson lyrics of a romanticized Southern heritage lost or never had. In this instance he explores the sinking of a riverboat named The Mississippi Queen that takes down the gambler, Bayou Sam, to a watery grave. Evangeline, his faithful lover, "high on the top of Hickory Hill/she stands in the lightning and thunder" as she is forced to watch helplessly as the Mississippi Queen goes under.

In one of three scenes filmed on a sound stage, we get to see The Band as they rotate their musical instruments and nicely showcase their multi-threat vocalists. The always-pain-stricken sounding Rick Danko opens with the first verse and then gives way to the angelic sounding, and looking, Emmylou Harris who, in contrast to last week, gets a much deserved vocal lead here. Then, after a brief music break in which Arkansan Levon Helm, who usually mans the drums, takes us on a nice little tour of his mandolin skills and shows why he is one of my all-time favorite singers. After that, it's some pretty sweet 4-part harmonies as Richard Manuel joins the others to fill out the last two verses. It's a more than pleasing sight to watch