Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Connie County

In my dream last night, Connie Francis was a 6' 5" post-operative transsexual who wrote the following songs for Pink Floyd:

• "Money"
• "Wish You Were Here"
• "Who Farted?"

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Worst/Best Rock Songs About Rock, Part 1

Don McLean "American Pie"
I may as well start at the bottom and claw my way up. "American Pie" is not only the worst song about rock, it is one of the worst songs about anything. I blame this long, long, long song for opening the floodgates of boomer nostalgia that dominated our cultural horizons for years. Oh, would that we could go back in time, when a Latino, a nerd from Lubbock and a gimmicky DJ could all die in the same Iowa plane crash, back to the time I finger banged Mary Sue in the back of my rag top Chevy at the drive-in. James Dean and Marilyn Monroe were taken from us too soon, and Marlon Brando should have died before he got fat. And all this music today sounds like noise. Now we live in the shadow of the greatest generation, but we stopped a war! And so on. This song is so god-awful that I can't even listen to the Killdozer version of it.

Twisted Sister "I Wanna Rock"
I love Dee Snyder. Can't deny it. I think he had the best moment in the PMRC hearings in the 80's (scroll down to the first exchange). The man even had a cameo in Pee Wee's Big Adventure. How cool is that? He was a loudmouth, and whether you agreed or not, you knew he wasn't just putting on airs. I outwardly hated the video for "I Wanna Rock" in high school, but I must have secretly liked it because it always stuck with me. Authority Figure: (Voice rising, lips curled in disgust) "Twisted Sister? What kind of man desecrates a defenseless textbook? I've got a good mind to slap your fat face! You are destroying that life with that, that, that garbage! All right, Mister Sister, I want you to tell me, better yet, stand up and tell the class: what do you want to do with your life?" Young Student Who Wants to Rock: (channeling Dee Snyder's voice) "I wanna rock!" Authority Figure is suitably freaked through the ceiling.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Title: Swallow
Artist: Swallow
Purchased: Exclusive Company, Madison, WI 1995.
Verdict: Gagged

I remember Sub Pop. I remember grunge. I remember Tad. I don't remember Swallow. And for good reason.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Off The Record

First, off, I would like to apologize for using "Huh? Huh?" twice in Needledrop as a punchline. It is sloppy to say the least, and I will never do it again.

Second, I would like to provide a personal aside. My mother's father just passed away on Monday. My emotions about this are complex. Sort of. I am sad, which is simple, but not for the predicatble reasons. I loved my grandpa, but really didn't know him as a human being. I knew him as the guy that went to work at the bank every day walked home for lunch to eat and take a nap.

My sadness is rooted more in the fact that Grandpa Strange (yes, that was his real name) was my last grandparent to pass on. I'm 36 years old, and in a sense I am blessed that I made it to 35 with three living grandparents. Since December, I've lost them all. The foundation of my two families has been demolished, and it makes me feel that now, more than ever, I must give up my childhood. I love all of my family members, regardless of our divergent upbringings, but there is no longer anything holding us together.

Later in my Grandpa Strange's life (yes, that was his name), I made my first effforts to get to know him as a person, but by this time, it was too late. He wasn't able to coherently answer my questions. The last time I saw him was a month and a half ago, and I had to spend an hour trying not to cry. His coherence increased as time went on, but he was not the man who spent his life working to make the lives of his children and grandchlidren better. Not the man who spent his time on a battleship in the South Pacific hoping he would come back to his family. It was hard to see the patriarch of a family, who had done well, by all accounts, reduced to being pushed around in a wheelchair.

There's no moral to this. No greater lesson. No one can ever be told to appreciate what they have and take it seriously. I just want to celebrate a man who I didn't know very well, but still had a great influence in my life.

Thanks for enduring. Today, I am a man.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Beaver Dam Senior High School 1976-77 Mixed Chorus, Choirsters and Girls Glee Club

Title: Beaver Dam Senior High School 1976-77 Mixed Chorus, Choirsters and Girls Glee Club
Artist: See above
Purchased: Uhhhhhhh. Probably in 2000-2001, and definitely in Wisconsin.
Verdict: Off Wisconsin.

My friend Jon Ward has a lot of luck with records like this. He's gone around and found high school recordings of 60s pop and psych songs and compiled them for friends. Okay, it's not lucky, he looks long and hard for this stuff. Me, I am an amateur digger. The only thing I've ever been really proud of finding was an Ann Castle rockabilly 45 called "Go Get the Shotgun, Grandpa."

That didn't mean I don't want to strike out and try to find that record that would make Jon Ward's eyes bug out with envy.* So when I found the Beaver Dam et cetera and so on record, I figured that there was a chance of containing some sort of bump and swing.

Well, no. It is a bad recording of a small-town Wisconsin high school choir doing predominantly religious songs, including the whitest spiritual ever. There's something weird about the arrangements of one of the songs, some sort of bizarre back-and-forth of the lyric "Why do you persecute?" that was clearly meant to please parents more than it was to sound good. For that alone, I almost kept it, but Anita rightly pointed out that I would never listen to it again, no matter how bizarre.

Oh, and check out the back. All the titles are hand written. Still, if the family of one of the singers could let it go, I can too.

*Actually, rather than tormenting him with it, I probably would have given it to him if it was any good, because Jon Ward is THAT NICE. Seriously.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Title: Shotgun EP
Artist: Colourbox
Purchased: Wazoo Records, Madison, WI, late 80s
Verdict: Boi-i-i-ing!

As you may have ascertained from the spelling of "colour," Colourbox are of British origin. Further, they are 1/2 of the studio project M/A/R/R/S, who did "Pump Up The Volume". I remember buying it because (DAMAGED HUMAN BEING ALERT) I was a) really into 4AD Records at the time (they put out Cocteau Twins and Bauhaus) and b) a big fan of their song "Hot Doggies" from the 4AD sampler Lonely Is An Eyesore. I didn't really get into Shotgun at the time, so I put it away, in alphabetical order, like I did with all my records, and went about buying more records to put around it.

I probably didn't like the soulful voice on it at the time. I was hoping for something, you know, a little more Elizabeth Fraser-y or Lisa Gerrard-esque, who, by the way, looks totally creepy these days. Going back and listening to it now, that thin soulfulness is pretty much sole redeeming quality. Musically, there are some periodic keyboard flourishes that touch on interesting ambience, but more than anything, it sounds like two guys in a studio going "No shit, what does THIS do? AWESOME! Check out this keyboard noise! Bloop bloop bloop blip! Ha ha ha! Now fire up that drum machine and put a beat to it."

The cover design of the negative image of two horses humping is pretty good, but everything Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson (aka 23 Envelope) deisgned was pretty to look at. This reminds me of the time I wanted to do a little blurb about 23 Envelope for the Onion back in 1994 and I called 4AD to get some information and the publicist was a completely dismissive dick. Well, Mr. Publicist! Who has a blog NOW? Huh? Huh?

Save a record

If you would like something I plan on getting rid of, and you disagree with my assessment and would like it for your own, let me know. We can probably work something out. No value judgement will be placed on your desire. I would rather place music in the hands of someone who wants it than throw it out.

My Aim Is True

Title: My Aim Is True
Artist: Elvis Costello
Purchased: Likely migrated into my records collection from that of an ex-girlfriend.
Verdict: The sound it made hitting the garbage can was more interesting that anything on the album.

I didn't need to listen to this again to tell you what I think of it. I lived it. But in the interest of fairness and not cheating in my mission to fairly judge all my stagnant records, I did. I stand by my conviction that I've never heard anyone more overrated than Elvis Costello. And don't lecture me. I tried. I think he's boring and his voice is grating. "But you haven't heard the right song," you say. No, and I won 't. Ever. For everyone that wants to argue against, feel free. But first, lock yourself in a room and listen to "Allison" 15 times in a row, then come out and tell me what a clever gent and a genius he is.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Aesthetics Update

Recently seen: Nearly accoustic sets by Best Friends Forever (great and energetic, funny and pixie stick sweet songs and so, so nice as people) with Bobcats (solid and fun, two vocalists, keyboard and a song about zombies in love, not to be confused with the Jazz Butcher song "Zombie Love") at Eat Records in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Also, a technically adept pirate-themed band on a different bill at a different venue on the same night.

Recenltly amlost bought: Die Kreuzen-October File, Ignition-Orafying Mysticle. Couldn't commit to more vinyl though. Perhaps I'll get 'em on CD.

Recently listening to: The Conet Project, The KLF Chill Out, Sleater Kinney The Hot Rock, "Television" and "Message From Our Sponsor (Object/Subject) from the Terminal City Riccochet soundtrack.

Recently watched on YouTube:

Beaker Sings Feelings

Finally, the entire UNICEF Smurf Bombing

Available on request: DJ Aperitif's Rocket to Rock mix CD.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Freedom Of Choice

Title: Freedom of Choice
Artist: Devo
Purchased: Neighbor's donation, 2003
Verdict: Eject

Calm down, spazzmos. I have it on CD and another copy on vinyl. I don't need two vinyl copies. Or do I. Ulp.

The Nightfly

Title: The Nightfly
Artist: Donald Fagen
Purchased: Believed to be album donation from Sean Dorgan
Verdict: Sorry Jessie

Jessie Dean is one of my favorite people in the world. She easily makes the top 20 of all the people I've known in my life. However, she loves Steely Dan and Donald Fagan, so I feel like I'm letting her down. Or at least I will let her down in like 3…2…1…

I really dislike this album.

It's a smooth jazz nightmare, slick and overproduced, Kenny G with vocals which might actually be kind of clever if I felt like sitting down and listening to them, which I don't. Anita said, with a sour face, that it sounds like someone noodling around in an organ store. It has one song, "I.G.Y." that got radio play in the 80's, so my familiarity led me to dislike this song less. Not enough though.


Title: 2
Artist: Bloodrock
Purchased: Either a yard sale or a thrift store
Verdict: So gone

Am I unfair in bringing certain expectations to the turntable with me when I put on an album by a band called Bloodrock? Namely, that the album will rock…hard? Look at that cover art. A bunch of surly guys (Could it be Bloodrock themselves?) stare out at you, warning that they would kick your ass in a red second if only they could figure out a way to travel through this record cover to do it. Meanwhile, their image is being drenched in blood. Whoah! Now they're going to be really mad!

On the back, a lot is cleared up. 1) The blood on the front seems to come from old-fashioned glass donor-type bottles, so they probably just stole it from their day jobs as hospital orderlies. 2)) They're from Texas. Okay, in reality, that doesn't mean anything. I love a lot of music from Texas. Roky Erickson. The Cherubs. The Butthole Surfers. ZZ Top. It's a pretty long list. In my mind, though, Texas is a hurdle that needs to be overcome.

Bloodrock went to the "I/Me/Girl/Woman/Heart" lyrical school. "Girl, please believe me/I wouldn't cheat on you/Woman, don't you leave me/ I couldn't live without you". Bleah. In a way, it reminds me of Marky Ramone's first band Dust, but at least those lyrics were kind of funny and the rock actually rocked. Bloodrock's music is too weak to be decent acid rock and too simple to be prog rock. There are times they can't even seem to play their instruments on the beat. OH! Great lyric just happened: "God in heaven/teach me how to die." Whoah. That, according to Wikipedia, was from their biggest hit, "D.O.A.". Listening to it again, it reminds me of "Rock and Roll Creation" by Spinal Tap. And it ends with sirens. Too little too late, Bloodrock!

American Gold: 24 Million Sellers [sic] In A Two Record Set

Title: American Gold
Artist: Henry Jerome
Purchased: Half-Priced Books, Madison, WI June 2004 (estimate)
Verdict: Squeaks by

Based on the artwork alone, this is a tough call. The gate-fold cover of a woman in a wig and ill-fitting sequined minidress looking like she is greatly amused or, um, pleased by being surrounded by a handful of gold records-–seemingly of French origin–-is tacky-neat, but not on the par of a Whipped Cream and Other Delights or a Jorge Negrette. That caveat aside, if the album indeed had the boasted 24 million-sellers…Well, let's just say it’s hard to argue with those numbers.

A cursory listen of American Gold reveals Henry Jerome's instrumental orchestration of several hits circa 1970. I was turned off by "Son Of A Preacher Man," because I, like anyone who went into a bar the year after the Pulp Fiction soundtrack came out, was subjected to the original enough to hate preachers, men, and Dusty Springfield. The album really shines, though, with the swinging horns on upbeat soul numbers ["Uptight (Everything's Alright)"] and the evocative sentimental mooshiness of the slower numbers ("You Make Me So Very Happy" or "What the World Needs Now Is Love"). Jerome did manage to take the sass out of "Respect," and the whole thing could have been one album, but on the whole, it's worth hanging on to.

It says a lot that music I dismissed as uncool elevator music in my youth now sounds cooler than the originals. Possibly, it says that most of the music covered on American Gold has been reduced to wallpaper by appropriation in commercials, television and soundtracks. More likely, it says that I am old and in the way.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Story of a Young Heart

Title: The Story of A Young Heart
Artist: A Flock Of Seagulls
Purchased: God, I hope I didn't pay for this.
Verdict: Dump it

To my defense, I don't remember how or when I got this. I just know it was stuck in with my other, better records. I may well have laid out some precious quarters for it. It might have been a charity offering from a well-meaning friend or neighbor. Don't laugh. Such an act of generosity landed me a copy of The Contortions Buy and several other fun records.

That said I'll admit to having a soft spot for A Flock of Seagulls hits like "Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)", "Space Age Love Song" and "I Ran", so I held out some slender hopes when I put this on. But no, there wasn't a passable track on the whole thing. Any time I hear people talk about how they love the 80s–and not referencing the TV show–I want to deliver them a four-hour multi-media presentation enumerating all the reasons the 80s were just a rotting sandwich with Reagan the first George Bush being the bread and a lot of whiny lyrics, uninspired drum-machine beats and a thin overall sound as the filling. It wasn't all floppy haircuts and Duran Duran. There were beatings. This Album Sucked (So I Threw It the Hell Out).

Monday, August 07, 2006

Summer of '42 Soundtrack

Title: Summer of '42 Soundtrack
Artist: Michel LeGrand
Purchased: Savers, Madison, WI July 2006
Verdict: Keep it

Apparently, this was a popular book, movie and soundtrack based on a true story that I never heard of either. Something about a forbidden romance on a New England island while a husband is away dying in Europe…for the war.

If I had my way, ALL New England romances would be forbidden! Huyk huyk hyuk!

Based on the synopsis, it seems like Summer of '42 falls into my I-could-not-possibly-find-anything-of-interest-in-this-wistful-recollection-of-days-gone-by category, like I do with most Neil Simon plays. But on the thrift store shelf, the soundtrack was alluring. Michel LeGrand is responsible for the catchy meaningless vocal track "Di Gue Ding" from The Kid Stays In the Picture*, so, against my wife's warning, I wanted to see if lightning could strike twice.

It didn't so much. I started checking out the tracks (some of which weren't even from the movie), and it was a nice, lilting orchestral score. I was tempted to keep it for that alone, but I need excuses not to keep things right now. However, the last track I got to (actually the last song on side one) was "High I.Q.", a fun '60s go-go number like I was expecting on Gaily, Gaily. Michel LeGrand, you pulled the fat out of the fire once again.

*The Kid Stays In the Picture soundtrack was compiled my wife, the lovely Anita Serwacki, so she's largely responsible for re-introducing "Di Gue Ding" to the States.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A little about the Needledrop...

If you don't know me, you probably aren't reading this. But let's say you opened a browser, mashed the keyboard and this came up.

Here are my aesthetic guidelines:

1) If it has a cover of "Sunshine Superman" or "The Theme from Love Story," I will buy it.
2) If the cover looks interesting, I will buy it.
3) If it seems like a vanity record, I will buy it.
4) If it has one good song on it, I keep it.
5) If the cover is really, really good, I keep it whether the music is good or not.
6) If it's Ray Conniff and I think I don't already own it, I will buy it.*
7) Some of last new music I bought were two Meters reissues, a great Fall rip-off song by Tom Vek, a Built To Spill song (my first Built To Spill purchase), a grime song by No Lay, "I'll Be Around" by the Spinners and Syd Barret's The Madcap Laughs.
8) The last shows I went to see were Os Mutantes, The Eternals, and a split bill with Parts and Labor and Oneida.
9) I do most of my used record shopping in Madison thrift stores when I go to visit.
10) I don't have as much time for music any more.

* Note: This is not an act of winking irony. I really like Ray Conniff, especially Happiness Is, and his entire discography can be picked up super cheap.

Gaily, Gaily original motion picture score

Title: Gaily, Gaily
Artist: Henry Mancini
Purchased: Savers, Madison, WI July 2006
Verdict: Ditch it

Based on the cover, this one could have been great. From the tagline ("The movie of a 19 year old who went to town–who went to town!" and "By the time Ben Harvey is 21 years old, he won't have a thrill left in his body.") to the photo of the young man on the cover, completely nude save a paperboy hat and beat-up satchel covering his governor, it looked like it would have at least one acid-rock freakout song or at least some swinging mod music. Plus, it's a Norman "Jesus Christ Super Star" Jewison film. Huh? Huh?

Anyone could have made that mistake.

Instead, what you get is a bunch of banjo and tuba faux-dixieland crap that makes you want to dig up Mancini to punch him. I cant imagine a less-gay sounding album than this, unless, unbeknownst to me, banjos have been secret code for gay for years. I threw it on the "Get out of my house!" pile.