Posts Tagged ‘Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings’

Miss Sharon Jones (One Night Only)

May 28, 2017

Part of Sharon Jones’ encore of “Get Up and Get Out,” College Street Music Hall, New Haven, 5/27/16. From YouTube.

I thought of this yesterday with the news of Gregg Allman’s death; I free-associated to this version of “Midnight Rider.” And, coincidentally, it was year ago yesterday I saw maybe the most emotionally wrenching show I’ll ever see.

5/27/16, Friday of Memorial weekend, four days after my father’s funeral, after he died of cancer. Finally (!!!) got to see Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, at College Street in New Haven (with my bestie, Paola, who turned me on to them many years ago). Sharon had obviously lost some weight in her second battle with cancer, but she looked fab in that sequined dress.

But I could see her constantly talking with Bosco between songs, and the look of distress, occasionally anger, on her face and in her body language as the show went on. The cancer acting up, maybe? Well, I got the answer about two-thirds of the way through, when she had to take herself off the stage, slightly hunched over in pain. The band and her singers carried on, and I figured that she wouldn’t be coming back.

But about 10 minutes later, there she was, walking slowly back to the stage. She sang “This Land Is Your Land”; most of the way through the song, after breaking into some dancing, she took herself over to the riser to sit for the rest of the song, not missing a beat. Then, after another break, a full-lunged encore of “Get Up and Get Out” and “Retreat!” A huge fuck-you to the disease that eventually got the upper hand on her.

She didn’t have to come out again for the end of the set, let alone an encore. For this night at least, she had gotten the better of her cancer. And while she didn’t intend it this way, she had given us a great gift — herself, in a way most artists never have to, sharing with us whatever she could while she still had breath.

I walked away shaken.

Like my father, who was tough as you’d expect from a child of the Depression — he was on his feet until four days before he died — I had been optimistic that Sharon would conquer her cancer again. After this show, not so much. I knew it would be my first and last Sharon Jones show. It didn’t make the news go down any easier the night of Nov. 18.

I still choke up as often as not when I hear one of her songs. It might be on one of my mixdiscs. It might be the night of May 4, in honor of Sharon’s first birthday without Sharon, when The Dap-Kings sat in with Stephen Colbert’s house band. Or a segue from “Midnight Rider” to another. Today, it’s not so much eyes welling up as it is a heavy sigh.

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Cygnus Radio playlist 7/5/13: The Zombies were having fun …

July 7, 2013
Yes, it's the Zombies, but no no no, no, no, no, it's not from last Friday night's show in Hamden; this is from June 16 in Rockville, Md. From left: Rod Argent, Jim Rodford and Colin Blunstone. From YouTube.

Yes, it’s The Zombies, but no no no, no, no, no, it’s not from last Friday night’s show in Hamden; this is from June 16 in Rockville, Md. From left: Rod Argent, Jim Rodford and Colin Blunstone. From YouTube.

Franorama 2.0 airs live from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT (9-noon CDT, 7-10 a.m. PDT, 2-5 p.m. GMT) on Cygnus Radio, and in perpetuity in the archives. To go to the archives, click here.

Well, all the years I was writing about music at the New Haven Register, the Hamden Arts Commission would hold a free summer concert series at Meadowbrook Park, an old golf course in the center of town, but despite writing about it every year in the Weekend section, I never went to a show. (I think it was just not wanting to do anything on a Friday night after a 55-to 60-hour work week. Usually just exhaustion and/or decompression.)

Finally, in this, my first summer home from my eight-year exile in California, I went to a show. And it was, indeed, a show. This year, the commission opened its four-Fridays-in-July series with The Zombies.

I’d heard good things from discerning musical friends about the reconstituted Zombies — maybe the most understated and underappreciated act of the British Invasion — since singer Colin Blunstone and keyboardist Rod Argent began touring under that name again in the early 2000s. But I’d never had the chance to see them.

My friend Theresa and her hubby, Fred, picked me up (thanks again!), and we made a night of it. And for such a skeevy, sticky summer day, it was a gorgeous evening. And The Zombies were well worth it. A packed hour and a half as it got dark — all the hits, five tunes from Odessey and Oracle, some newer stuff, Rod playing “Hold Your Head Up,” “She’s Not There” to end the set, then “Just out of Reach” and “Summertime” to end it.

And Blunstone — who, like Argent, just turned 68 — was in most excellent voice. All these years, I’ve seen so many performers cut corners to compensate for the vocal ranges they’ve lost. He still has his. The only other singer I can think of who kept his voice well into his 60s like that was Ronnie Dio (who lived to 67; his stomach may have failed him, but not his larynx).

Anyway, I celebrated in advance by playing a half-hour of Zombies on the show that morning, a 10-song set.

And some of the other tunes of note from the 5th:

  • Musicians, get played here! A wonderful thing happened in the midst of the opening set. The irrepressible Palmyra Delran — onetime guitarist and leader of The Friggs — messaged me on Facebook with links to her two most recent singles, “Shy Boy” and “You’re My Brian Jones.” My unofficial motto is “If I like it, I’ll play it” — so I processed both cuts and got them on before the set was over. The moral of the story: If you have an album (CD or files) you think is worthy of playing, well, as I said, if I like it, I’ll play it! message me here or on my Facebook page, and I’ll let you know where to send the album.
  • Musicians, get played here! Part two: The Lost Riots, from New Havenish. I’ve known the lead guitarist, Sean Beirne, since he was a young squirt playing with The Battlecats. Saw them for the first time Wednesday night at the Punk Rock BBQ at Cafe Nine. And ahead if the show, they posted their forthcoming cassette (yes, cassette), “Crown Street Stories,” as a free download on Bandcamp. I played “You Don’t Like Otis Redding.”
  • 50 years? Really? According to the FB page for the documentary The Wrecking Crew, Friday was the 50th anniversary of the day the famed group of L.A. studio musicians laid down the tracks for “By My Baby” at Gold Star Studios. Brian Wilson’s all-time favorite single and source of production inspiration. History.

Anyway, that’s enough for now. Coming up this Friday: A special rave-up with the band that’s headlining before and after the fireworks Saturday evening at the Sailfest in New London — my faves, The Fleshtones. Get ready for three hours of wildness.

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Cygnus Radio playlist 6/7/13: So much to cram into three hours

June 10, 2013
Yes, Deacon Jones was briefly a recording artist.

Yes, Deacon Jones was briefly a recording artist.

Franorama 2.0 airs from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT (9 a.m.-noon CDT, 7-10 a.m. PDT, 2-5 p.m. GMT) on Cygnus Radio. For the archival link to this and all other past shows, click here.

As Al Anderson sang with NRBQ, there’s so much to do and so little time

That’s the way my latest Franorama 2.0 show on Cygnus Radio felt last Friday. How do you cram everything into one three-hour tour? Well, the way the Howells and Ginger crammed steamer trunks aboard the S.S. Minnow for their three-hour tour, I guess …

Here’s what I had to fit in — and did:

  • “52 Girls” because I just turned 52.
  • Los Straitjackets, The Outta Sites and The Big Fat Combo. Los Straitjackets, the surf combo with the Mexican wrestling masks, plays tonight (June 10) at Cafe Nine in New Haven. Chris “Sugarballs” Sprague, the drummer, was just at the Nine a month ago playing for Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys. In addition, he fronts The Outta Sites, back in L.A.; their new debut album, Shake All Night with The Outta Sites, is wonderful shades of The Dave Clark Five and The Wonders from That Thing You Do. And local semi-legends The Big Fat Combo will open the show.
  • A tribute of sorts to the greatest defensive end of all time, Deacon Jones, who died last Monday (June 3). If you grew up in a certain era, as I did, you probably thought the Los Angeles Rams were pretty cool — the white-and-blue unis, Roman Gabriel, Jack Snow, and the most famous front four in NFL history: Jones, Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy. I often wondered whether David Jones took his nickname from a song, like fellow Hall-of-Famer Night Train Lane. I included two songs titled “Deacon Jones” (by Louis Jordan and zydeco king Boozoo Chavis, who recorded extremely down-and-dirty versions of it early and late in his life), as well as a 1965 single the Foursome recorded for Capitol.
  • In its entirety, the new CD by one of my favorite people (musician or not), Blake
    The inimitable Blake Jones & the Trike Shop.

    The inimitable Blake Jones & the Trike Shop.

    Jones & the Trike Shop, back in Fresno. One of the most whimsical and pedigreed pop groups you’ll ever hear. Their first album in three years, Teasers From the Whispermaphone, is just that — a seven-song look at early and now-out-of-print discs and hints of sounds and directions to come.

  • The Remains and The A-Bones. After the show, I jumped on a train to a rainy Brooklyn to see them play at the Bell House. What’s weird is that I’m now as old as The Remains, those ’60s Boston legends via Connecticut and Jersey, were when they started their second chapter back in 1998. Anyway,  hadn’t seen Barry Tashian, Bill Briggs, Vern Miller and Chip Damiani (an old New Haven near-neighbor of mine) since I drove from Fresno to Hollywood to appear in their documentary, America’s Lost Band. That was six years, one gender and one cross-country move ago. And the last time I
    Barry Tashian and Vern Miller of The Remains at The Bell House, Brooklyn, Friday night.

    Barry Tashian and Vern Miller of The Remains at The Bell House, Brooklyn, Friday night.

    got to see Billy Miller and Miriam Linna and Bruce Bennett and Marcus the Carcass was five summers ago at the now-gone Magnetic Field in Brooklyn. It was great to catch up, let me tell ya — even if my brake master cylinder went on me ion the way home …

  • Amaglamated Muck, Eric Hisaw, New Mystery Girl, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and the Dead Kennedys. One of the weirdest sets I’ve played in a long time. Eric, a guitarist/singer/songwriter from Austin who found me on Facebook a month ago, was at the Nine last Wednesday playing lead for Zoe Muth. Played one of his new songs and something from a rock band he played with back there three years ago, New Mystery Girl, At the show, I met, at long last, Lauren Agnelli — onetime New Yorker who lives in central Connecticut now. She was in a new wave band in the late ’70s (Nervus Rex) and, a retro-folkie act in the ’80s (The Washington Squares). She now plays in another folkish group of sorts, Amalgamated Muck, and her hell of extended joblessness (which ended last year) inspired the title song of their 2012 debut album, The New Leisure Class. The Dap-Kings I played because Sharon broke the news last Monday that she’s battling stage-1 bile duct cancer. After the news broke about the government’s widespread electronic snooping on us, I played their incredible twist of “This Land Is Your Land” … into the DKs’ song about a surveillance state, “I Am the Owl.”
  • The Reducers. It’ll be a year already on Wednesday (June 12) that we lost Steve Kaika, the bass player from Connecticut’s greatest rock’n’roll band aside from The Wildweeds. Thirty-four years with the same four guys (only The Four Tops, 53 years with the same foursome, topped that). I played mostly of them, along with the three best tracks from Rave On, Vol. 1, the tribute album that his nephew back in Fresno, Jes Farnsworth (now touring Europe as the guitarist for ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted’s trio, Newsted), put together to help pay Steve’s medical expenses.
  • Birthdays living and dead. I found out just as my previous week’s show ended that it would’ve been the 50th birthday of outsider art’s link to rock’n’roll, Wesley Willis (who died 10 years ago in August), so I put him in with three Friday birthdays: Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes (50), Prince (55) and Tom Jones (73).
  • To close, the rarely heard original 1961 version of “Someday We’ll Be Together” — yes, The Diana & the Supremes swan song — by Johnny (Bristol) & Jackey (Beavers).

That’s enough fun for one week. I think I want to do it again next week, too. Tune in live or in the archives. Ciao for now …

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Cygnus Radio playlist 4/12/13: We’ll never see this again

April 13, 2013
It's a wild hockey weekend in Connecticut -- Yale and Quinnipiac playing for the NCAA championship.

It’s a wild (and unprecedented) hockey weekend in Connecticut — Yale and Quinnipiac playing for the NCAA men’s hockey championship.

Franorama 2.0 airs live from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT Fridays (7-10 a.m. PDT, 2-5 p.m. GMT) on Cygnus Radio. For the link to this and all other archived shows, click here.

I’m finding, oddly enough, that the creative process of putting together my weekly Franorama 2.0 show on Cygnus Radio is somewhat different than all those years doing terrestrial radio at WPKN in Bridgeport. It’s a lot more social media-reliant in the way I draw inspiration for what is, by nature, a freewheeling show.

This week’s show is no exception.

Well, I knew one small direction in which the show was going in the opening set: In commemoration of the unprecedented feat of two Connecticut schools (Yale of New Haven and Quinnipiac of Hamden, seven miles apart) playing for the NCAA men’s hockey championship, I played two tunes from Connecticut’s other major current contribution to hockey, The Zambonis.

(And free-associated from that into “Wild Hockey Weekend,” from their 2012 album Five Minute Major (in D Minor), into the song they semi-covered, NRBQ’s “It’s a Wild Weekend,” and from that 1989 chestnut into Rebels’ original 1962 instrumental, “Wild Weekend.” Maybe the first time all three songs were ever played consecutively …)

A chart whose likes we'll never see again -- the week of April 12, 1964.

A chart whose likes we’ll never see again — the week of April 4, 1964.

But the night before (which happens to be the title of a Beatles song, I know) this April 12th show, someone posted a neat little photo and item on Facebook. It was 49 years ago this week — the week of April 11, 1964 — that The Fab Four had 14 songs in the Billboard Hot 100. Five of them were in the top 10 — and not only that, the week before, all five of those songs were at Nos. 1-5 on the chart. File that little bit of fun trivia under Cool Things We’ll Never See Again.

So I had the inspiration for two more sets: in ascending order, the bottom seven Beatle songs from that week (Nos. 81, 78, 74, 61, 52, 50 and 48), then the top seven (Nos. 38, 14, 9, 7, 4, 2 and 1). And it was also a sideways tribute to my musical friends in Fresno, The Beetles, playing their 20th-anniversary show this weekend at the Starline. I’m allergic to “tribute” bands as a rule, but this fabulous four (Nate Butler, Blake Jones, Tom Magill and Stan Schaffer) are fantastic musicians who do this as an infrequent sideline, a hobby as opposed to a career move. (Blake’s group, The Trike Shop, and Tom and Stan’s trio, Poplord, have gotten airplay on this show.)

Other inspirations this week:

  • The rainy weather.
  • An obscure blues song (“You Don’t Love Me,” a 1961 side by Mississippi musician Willie Cobbs), and how it influenced some of white teen garage bands five years later (Kim & Grim’s version, a staple of Pebbles compilations; and New Haven’s own Bram Rigg Set).
  • Arguably sonically the first punk band, The Sonics, who are playing a sold-out date at The Bell House in Brooklyn in another of the heartfelt worldwide benefit shows for my pals Billy Miller and Miriam Linna at Norton Records, also in Brooklyn. Their warehouse space in Red Hook, with almost all their inventory, was flooded out and wiped out by Sandy. Norton has been reissuing The Sonics’ catalog since 1998, as well as releasing the early demos on the album The Savage Young Sonics. Karma has been coming around in spades for Billy and Miriam, two characters as beloved as anyone can be in the music world.

And finally — a show with no technical glitches. No software freezing up, no voice-level problems. Smooth sailing, the mic levels were fine for a change, and, well, let’s not jinx it, eh? See you next Friday — same Bat-time, same Bat-channel …

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Five Songs, Part 86

June 29, 2012

Well, this week’s Five Songs marks the day before the midway point of 2012 already. Not quite sure now that happened, except that this year of great change hasn’t happened yet, and I need it to happen soon. Enjoy your pre-holiday weekend:

Change — Killing Joke

Absolute Beginners — The Jam

The Story in Your Eyes — The Moody Blues

Keep on Looking — Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

Going Nowhere — Los Bravos

Yep — just like old times (Super Bowl 46, the Sequel: Giants 21, Patriots 17)

February 7, 2012

Every football-playing kid wants to grow up to be the one who scores the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. Well, maybe except Ahmad Bradshaw. Photo: AP.

Well, the parallels between Super Bowls 42 and 46 were many: Low score. Defenses that stepped up. Long, sustained scoring drives. Eli Manning leading the Giants down the field in the final minutes. A pass for the ages to keep the winning drive going. A last-minute touchdown by New York. And a desperation heave by Tom Brady that was broken up.

And Bill Belichick being a sore loser. While this time he actually stayed around to effusively hug his old friend Tom Coughlin after the game, he blew off the NBC crew, rather than give the network the two-minute losing-coach interview.

Some things were different. An early brainfart by Brady. A Madonna halftime show where Madge wasn’t the center of controversy, but a rapper who quickly flashed the bird (which I didn’t see until later on, on YouTube, because the screen was so small). The Patriots’ most reliable receiver, Wes Welker, making a huge drop when it counted most. The most reluctant winning touchdown in the history of football. Watching the game from the office, a funeral home-quiet place most days, where my reactions were, well, a lot more muted than they would have been had I been at a party, my original game plan.

And Coughlin hugging Flavor Flav. An image for the ages. (Had the coach said “Yeeeeah, boyeee!” I would’ve fallen out of my chair.)

But for all intents, we have, indeed, been there before. Giants over the Patriots in the big one, by less than a TD in the final minute. And Eli winning the MVP trophy again, only this time in the house his brother built.

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