Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lee Bob's Haunted Motley Crue Melody

MySpace is the best thing to happen to a music nerd in a whole lotta years. Despite whatever reservations I have about Rupert Murdoch's plans for world domination, I'm constantly amazed by the talent just floating willy-nilly around the "friend" empire. Case in point: Lee Bob Watson, the bass player for California indie band Jackpot, who you may remember from that Jason Lytle compilation, Under the Radio. Lee Bob recently asked to be my friend on MySpace, so I clicked over, gave a listen to his songs and was very, totally, really, completely impressed! What especially struck me was "To Juliette," from Lee Bob's 2004 album Punk Sinatra (BUY HERE). For a while, I couldn't figure out why it hit home so squarely. The lyrics -- a loser musician in love with an upstanding gal and bitterly in need of a hit to prove his worthiness (very Springsteen) -- are self-effacing and melancholy, but that's not really it. It's this strangely haunting and familiar melody...

But of course!

Lee Bob appears to have lifted it unscathed from the 80s power ballad "Home Sweet Home" by Motley Crue. The song is a classic, of course, but who actually wants to hear the original again given all we know about Vince's manslaughtering and the misadventures of the drummer's wang? In quoting Crue, Lee Bob has added a poignant meta-riff to his lyrical bitterness about the hit-making industrial-complex that once gave all the power and glory to idiots like Motley Crue. Juliette needs to understand this, so Lee Bob's making the (quite poignant and beautiful) case. Marry him, Juliette! Do it for love! You know, like in The Wedding Singer. Give it a listen and then visit and befriend Lee Bob, he's a special cat.

"To Juliette" - Lee Bob Watson & the Santa Cruz Gospel Choir

"Home Sweet Home" - Motley Crue

(Go to our MySpace site to hear Lee Bob's Phil Spector-ated "Let the Hate In," the current soundtrack to the Driftwood space.)


At the most recent meeting of the Driftwood Singers Oversight Committee, an ad hoc hearing was held on the subject of Gerry Rafferty. The committee members found that, though Rafferty’s band Stealers Wheel was indeed represented in an early Driftwood post, that did not in fact constitute a proper good faith fact-finding effort on the part of the board. Furthermore, statutes require that an immediate remedy to the omission be made within 72 hours of the next business day. Residents have until the next public hearing to amend or comment on the committee’s report.

* While it was not accepted as evidence of wrong-doing, the fact that the board has already found time to arrive at ruling on such artists as Bob Welch, Billy Joel, Melanie, Buffy St. Marie, Carl Sandburg, Journey, Al Jareau, B.W. Stevenson, Gordon Lightfoot. Jerry Jeff Walker, and dozens more, the members of the oversight committee acknowledged that this could create the appearance of prejudice toward the aggrieved parties.

* What’s more, the oversight committee unanimously agreed that Rafferty’s Scottishness granted him the right to immediate redress. The presence of McCartney-worthy milk-fattened bass-lines and syrupy harmonies on “The Long Way Round” do not constitute grounds for dismissal. Neither did the subsequent mega-success of songs like “Baker Street,” even with its sax stylings, nor the troubling depressed AM reggae-isms of “Right Down the Line” serve as grounds for delay. It was agreed that Rafferty’s association with the comedian Billy Connolly will not be entered into the official record.

In other business, the committee voted to continue funding for the “Transformative Change” initiative through the next fiscal year. And Joan Shearing was given permission to display her watercolors in the atrium of the meeting room.

“The Long Way Round” - Gerry Rafferty

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Midnight Special

The high-water overalls, newsboy caps, Mockney-isms, faux miner chic and artful facial scruff are all just icing on top of the peculiar mash-up of working-class mannerisms, Queen-like operatic put-ons, ska hat-tips, and Pogue-worthy Celtic pub sing-alongs of Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Kevin Rowland somehow channeled Freddie Mercury while presaging the heaving sighs and theatricality of Robert Smith, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright and countless others and still keeping everything soulful and horn-heavy. This is from the record that featured the big hit “Come On, Aileen.”

“Plan B” - Dexy’s Midnight Runners

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Embarrassment of Riches

I always had a soft spot in my heart for Charlie Rich after I learned about his infamous envelope-burning incident, when in a fog of booze and indignation he torched the envelope announcing John Denver’s win for Entertainer of the Year at the 1975 Country Music Awards. Rich was a silver fox, a late convert to countrypolitanism, and a maker of mega hits like “Most Beautiful Girl” and “Behind Closed Doors,” but before that he had a different thing going. Something moved me the other day when I was at Mystery Train in Amherst. They had this in the cheap-o stacks, and it seemed promising. Plus I’d heard a good, weird rock-n’honky-tonk jam of Charlie Rich’s on the Dylan radio show. I think this was originally recorded while Rich was on Sun Records in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, and you can hear the Elvis-isms, but with a darker, heavier edge.

“I’ve Lost My Heart to You” - Charlie Rich

Friday, May 18, 2007

How You Drifted Here

It was the wiseman Mr. Poncho who first observed the strange and circuitous routes by which readers happen upon The Driftwood Singers Present. If you've recently sought, by way of Google or Yahoo, useful information on "Robin Thicke's bass player," or wanted to know "is Freddy Fender gay" or more generally about "singers during the hippies" (a particular speciality of this site), you may have stumbled headlong into our small, seedy crevice of the webosphere, finding Mr. Poncho, Lefty and the gang hanging 'round the campfire talking about Melanie's vibrato. For that, we're grateful and not a little dumbfounded. That's why we've added -- and will continue to add to -- a new sidebar tool called "How You Drifted Here," highlighting the various byways that have lead unsuspecting travelers into our clutches. The sum total, we believe, will offer a profile of what this site stands for, its overall gestalt in the electronic collective consciousness. The routes of all ye Drifters to our Driftwood Singing makes us what we are today. So far, it's a dubious portrait indeed. And for that we thank you: Thanks for drifting our way.

A little theme music for exploring our new Drift tool:

One Day - Anne Murray

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Transcendently Delusional Rock Bombast

Why is it that Ohio seems to breed greatness? Lots of presidents were born there, including the immense William Howard Taft. The first ambulance service was established in Cincinnati. Cleveland had America's first traffic light. More importantly, an Ohioan invented the pop-top can. And, Akron is the rubber capital of the world. You get the picture – massive, massive achievements. Ohio, like Florida and Texas, is a kind of cultural/geographical vortex. Things survive there after they’ve vanished elsewhere. And it’s got so many damn cities. Plus it has that strange confluence of flat mid-western rust-beltisms and in-grown Appalachian-style coal-miner funkiness. In music, all I need to say is that Guided By Voices, Devo and Bill Fox are all from the Buckeye State.

Here’s another piece of work from Ohio. This is J.D. Blackfoot from the 1970 psychedelic-rock opus The Ultimate Prophecy, re-issued this month with loads of bonus tracks on Fallout Records. J.D. Blackfoot was born Benjamin Franklin Van Dervort (seems like a pretty good stage name to me), but rockers, as you know, like to empathize with the Native American (see Headstone Circus), and combine that with some bar-boogie and psychoactive dissipation, pop mysticism, and sometimes you get wonderful blends of transcendently delusional rock bombast. The title track is complete Spinal Tap – think Stonehenge, with a touch of epic Tennysonian Iron Maiden jams, one can also hear hints of Mollusk-era Ween, and a dash of Grand Funk Railroad, which is somehow both sodden and a leavening agent ... Mountain? Jethro Tull? (I’m quite the salesman). Listen for the heroic beat-incontinent drumming.

We’re told that shortly after the release of this record and the singles that followed, Blackfoot had a vision "in which he witnessed the Battle of Little Bighorn (1876), prompting him to become increasingly interested in the plight of native Americans. He has devoted much of his creative energy to them since."

"The Ultimate Prophecy" - J.D. Blackfoot

"Every Day - Every Night" - J.D. Blackfoot

"Save This World Today" - J.D. Blackfoot

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Black and White Lifestyles

That's the title of an old Richard Pryor routine I love, featured on That Nigger's Crazy, the Grammy Award-winning (!!) standup album of 1974. It's a cheap hook but I need a reason to rope together Elmore James and Gene Pitney today and it'll serve. Continuing in the theme of amazing crap I picked up for a quarter from the by-now legendary Dude On the Next Block Over Who Was Selling His Entire Record Collection For Some Fucking Reason, I bring you this knockout track from The Legend of Elmore James, a 1970 compilation from Kent Records. It's a raw, bombastic, shabbily-recorded, flat-out savage jam called "Hand in Hand" from a Canton, Mississippi night club show in 1954. And guess who's pounding on the piano? Ike Turner.

Hand in Hand - Elmore James

Now for the whiteness. So cheap! But the fey, lily-white minor chord grandiosity of Gene Pitney is just a different sort of greatness. Shinier penny loafers. As R. Pryor says, "White folks fuck quiet, too. I seen you all in the movies." This is the sound of an epically self-involved sap enabled by expensive, big league production values. Early attempts at Wilson's teenage symphony to God. From Pitney's Big Sixteen, a compilation issued in 1964 by the Musicor label. A big, fat hat tip to Mr. Poncho, who gave this to me for my birthday.

Half Heaven, Half Heartache - Gene Pitney

And why not:

Black and White Lifestyles - Richard Pryor

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Square Deal

We're all collectors -- or, rather, collections, aggregate holdings, a bunch of stuff held together by some energy. Basic quantum physics, particle and/or wave. We are each of us a nexus where ideas, phrases, emotions, expressions, sentences, paragraphs, geographies, books, records, memories and events meet up in a will-to-live we recognize as an identity -- in my case a lumbering hunk of flesh known in electronic circles as Lefty. When I die, that which was collected will disaggregate, the things I owned being the only trace of my rough collective manifestation. Hence and therefore, I buy an album from the guy on the next block over -- a double album, The Name of the Band is Talking Heads 1977-1979 ("I've got it on CD," says the spectacled dude selling his entire collection of records) -- and what was once a chunk of his ID is now a hunk of mine. For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you, says W. Whitman. It is, as the big sticker on the cover says, a "square deal."

A SQUARE DEAL: This album was returned to the manufacturer with its seal broken, although no flaws were found during a routine inspection. It is offered for sale at a substantial savings, and is not returnable. Manufacturer's suggested list price: $2

Squarer still! I got it for 25 cents. Thank you, Mr. Aging Hipster Who Lives On the Next Block Over and Already Has This Album on CD and Has Had Some Recent Deep Realization That He No Longer Needs to Be Hauling Around 500 Pounds of Vinyl to Feel Good About Himself Anymore. How very Buddhist!


Serious Izod funk, recorded live at Northern Studio, Maynard, Massachusetts, November 17, 1977.

A Clean Break - Talking Heads

Monday, May 14, 2007

You Got Lucky

...because I got lucky. Last Saturday afternoon, the aging hipster on the next block over was selling a bunch of first rate vinyl, lots of early 80s punk and New Wave. Some Brit guy was cockblocking me on the fresh stacks, but he missed this legandary Stiff Records compilation from 1978, Stiffs Live. Only 25 cents! It features the genius Nick Lowe (founder and in-house producer at Stiff), Wreckless Eric and Ian Drury & the Blockheads, among others. But what's truly righteous -- and why today is your lucky day -- is the live Elvis Costello: the Burt Bacharach and Hal David cover "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself," and "Miracle Man," from My Aim Is True. Recorded during the label's 1977 group tour, these are gems. Listen.

I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself - Elvis Costello

Miracle Man - Elvis Costello

[Photo caption: That's Nick in the foreground, Elvis over his left shoulder in the back. The photo is reversed on my copy.]

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Important Electric Finger Music

Imagine the scene. 1969. The cigar-chomping record executive at Capitol Records barks an order at young Jimmy the copy boy. "I need you to draw up some fancy words for the jacket copy of the Joe South LP, Don't It Make You Want to Go Home?" "Right away, sir!" yelps Jimmy, his voice cracking. He takes the freshly-cut vinyl and places it on the turntable. His eyes widen. Jimmy begins to sweat and nash his teeth. He did really well with the Gerry & the Pacemakers copy, but this! He resharpens his pencil again and again. What IS this? Is it country soul or just soulful country? It's gospelly and hip but it's not quite hipster gospel. It sounds like Roy Orbison and Fat Elvis ate peyote together in the desert and formed a single man wearing a Renaissance tunic and then Andrew Lloyd Weber showed up with some lost sheet music for Jesus Christ Superstar. Nearly at wit's end, Jimmy observes from his eighth-story window two hippies prancing down the street with moony grins on their faces, marveling at the sky as if they were born just minutes ago. And then, during side B, track 4, a song called "A Million Miles Away," it happens. Jimmy's pencil, almost on its own, begins to move. He has a vision. Yes! I've got it! That's it! (Wait a minute, did Carl the AOR guy put something in his Coca-Cola?)

"You probably know as much about Joe South as you know about Teddy Roosevelt, Billie Holiday or John Lennon. Or you should. But in case you don't, he's a very heavy talent; original, articulate, influential, important. Joe believes that today, popular music is much more than entertainment. More, even, than a mirror of our times. It has become steadily more important, until now it is probably the most profound and significant means of communication between people. The ideas it contains and communicates are the dominant force in the development of tomorrow. In fact popular music is making history. Literally. This is his viewpoint. What he does about it is write, arrange, produce and perform original material, not only brilliantly -- but more important -- with absolute honesty. His sound is down-home, Deep South, gospelly, hip; with a touch of Dylanesque, off-center, on-target, mind-blowing storytelling to the lyrics. He picks a series of exposed nerve endings and puts an electric finger on them, crisply and firmly like a man composing a simple melody on the piano. He makes you feel, think and blink. He is what he is; an Atlanta boy, 26-years-old, now and for real. Which is what makes this man great. If you don't yet know Joe South -- it's time. If you do -- you don't need anyone to tell you."

Scene II. The next morning:

Cigar-chomping record executive: By gum, Jimmy, you've done it. The kids are going to eat this shit up! I'm giving you a raise!

Jimmy: Gee! Thank you, sir! Thank you!

Clock Up on the Wall - Joe South

Children - Joe South

Listen closely to the psychedelic montage "A Million Miles Away." It includes a recording of an actual phone call Joe South makes trying to reach Richard Nixon at the White House. When he finally gets patched through to an aide, Joe tells him: "I'd like, if possible, to get a message to the President. Um, Joe South from Atlanta, Georgia. I don't want to be any bother or anything. I just want to speak for the hip community of Atlanta. We appreciate any and all the efforts that the President is putting forth at this time for peace in the world and thank you very much."

A Million Miles Away - Joe South

[Ed. Note: Bloggy rumors of Joe South's recent demise are karmically counteracted at Shot of Rhythm blog, where some early JS material is posted.]

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Circus Maximus: All in Favor, Say "Aye"

We had a quarterly meeting of the Driftwood Singers Board of Directors, held this past weekend in bucolic Pound Ridge, NY. Meats were grilled, vinyl was spun, whiskey was sipped, CDs ripped, futures pondered, guitars strummed, pasts reconsidered, handrolls smoked. In short, we communed with the sky, big time.

Among the findings, the board re-affirmed its commitment to spreading and amplifying the genius of Percy Sledge, and the board voted to table discussion on issues concerning Poco and the Average White Band. A draft resolution concerning Joe South and Bread was sent to a sub-committee hearing. When the meeting was adjourned, a Driftwood Singers caucus met to further discuss the matter of Headstone Circus.

The board members present felt that Headstone Circus, a little-known DC-based psychedelic country-rock group from the late 60s whose music is about to be re-issued on Normal Records, deserves the respect of all those who cherish gnarly Native American-inflected psychedelic blues-rock. It was unanimously agreed that, according to article IV, subsection C, of the Driftwood Charter, any band that can conjure CSNY and the Eagles, with weird tinges of Blue Cheer and the Marshall Tucker Band, deserves the full support of the board. Furthermore, any band whose foundation myth involves ingesting LSD in an old cemetery in which the "tombstones appeared to be melting and taking on animal shapes" is immediately eligible for special DSP grants and wavers of all application fees.

Ken Burgess announced that the Driftwood Singers’ Career Day events are still on schedule for August.

Because of time constraints the board adjourned.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Mali, the Final Frontier

The indie hipsters have colonized West Africa. First came the Sublime Frequencies compilation Bush Taxi Mali, which offered a needed DIY antidote to the footnote-heavy pieties of ethnomusicological releases. Now comes this, some deep raspy gourd-lute buzzing and thumping from Mali, distributed by Drag City. You can feel the mud cloth and the gris-gris action. It’s swinging, gnarly and raw. I love the way the whole groove pivots on the muted strings.

from Bougouni Yaalali