Posts Tagged ‘The Beatles’

Why I do cry, or all good things do have to end (Chip Damiani, 1945-2014)

February 24, 2014
The Remains in their first prime. From left: Bill Briggs, Chip Damiani, Barry Tashian and Vern Miller.

The Remains in their first prime. From left: Bill Briggs, Chip Damiani, Barry Tashian and Vern Miller.

How I got through the last three hours of work this past evening and remained something resembling productive while being emotionally numb is beyond me.

I’ve written tributes to deceased musicians many times, both for newspapers and here on this blog. But until now, I had never been written one about a friend.

As in any instance when a friend dies suddenly, totally unexpectedly, it’s awfully hard to articulate. It’s hard to even say it.

Okay, I’ll just get the hard part out and let the rest flow. After jamming through a whole bunch of work, I stopped around 9 p.m. to have a bite and check out my Facebook messages. A writer from Westport named Dan Woog posted a link to his blog on my page: Chip Damiani, the drummer for one of the best rock’n’roll bands America ever produced, The Remains — and, what is really important to me, a good friend and former neighbor-of-sorts — died yesterday afternoon of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. He was 68 going on 35.

Go figure — trim, in a fighting shape forged from all those years as a roofer, in the best physical shape by far of everyone in the band, their backbone and fiery, no-bullshit, you-knew-where-you-stood presence. And he’s the one who went first.

And it was Chip who provided me with one of my favorite stories in two-plus decades as a music writer. And introduced me to the band that provided me with two of my favorite moments as a music fan.



Cygnus Radio Playlist 5/31/13: A childhood regression of sorts

June 3, 2013
Dom-in-i-nique-a-nique-a-nique-a ...

Dom-i-nique-a-nique-a-nique-a …

June 3, 2013

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, and in the archives in perpetuity. For the link this all all other previous shows, click here.

I had never done this before: recaptured my childhood in the context of a radio show. But that’s what I did last Friday: rounded up every single song I remembered from the radio from my toddler years in Brooklyn in the early-to-mid-’60s (yep, I lived in Greenpoint 40 years before it was hip) and played them at the top of the 11 a.m. hour. (That would be the third set in the playlist below.)

My folks listened to WMCA, now a right-ring talk station but then a top-40 station, home of The Good Guys, with Joe O’Brien as the morning-drive host (accompanied by an obnixious occasional “sidekick” named Benny, who would burst out with “Hey! O’Brien!”). That’s what we listened to until we moved to Connecticut in the fall of ’65.

My folks gravitated to the old-folks’ stuff, but of course, MCA, and their Good Guys, were the ones who broke The Beatles to the masses in NYC when I was 2 1/2. So I got some Beatles, but also a lot of other diverse sounds. Maybe that’s why I’ve always had diverse musical tastes, which is why you see The Singing Nun and Louis Armstrong and the robotic novelty hit “Mechanical Man” among the set list.

The lights are much brighter there ...

The lights are much brighter there …

But my favorite song from childhood was from a pretty English singer named Petula Clark, singing about a mythical place called “Downtown.” Except I lived just across the Queens-Midtown Tunnel from midtown Manhattan,and there really was a Downtown, and, as she painted it for me, it sounded like this wonderful place full of life and activity. And there was one evening when we visited my mom’s cousin in Chelsea. It was my first time through the tunnel, all gleaming yellow brick, and when we exited among the dark gray clouds above, I remember shouting “Go downtown, Daddy! Go downtown!” And, of course, to my thrill, he did.

But yeah, all that probably had something to do with this deejay’s musical tastes.

Anyway, other random items from this past show: The chicken or the egg — did Little Richard begat Esquerita or vice versa? Played them back-to-back … Sister Sledge’s original 1973 version of “Mama Never Told Me,” redone in the early ’80s by Paul Weller protege Tracie Young with The Questions, and Boffalongo’s original 1970 recording of “Dancing in the Moonlight” … the first time I played a mashup — a tasty mix of Stevie Wonder singing “Uptight” over the remix of The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” … and recent releases by The Outta Sites (whose frontman, Chris “Sugarballs” Sprague, come to Cafe Nine on Monday (June 10) playing drums with Los Straitjackets; Texas singer/songwriter Eric Hisaw, who’ll play in Zoe Muth’s group when she comes to the Nine this Wednesday (June 5); Albany-based garage fiends The Mysteios; a couple things from the new She & Him album; an d a selection from a new country-laced EP by one of my favorite singers, Boston’s Jenny Dee (Jen D’Angora) & Several Men of Mystery.

I had so much fun that, what the hell, might as well do it again this Friday. Catch you then …


Cygnus Radio playlist 5/10/13: Mr. Jones, smooth sailing and ‘Stormy Weather’

May 11, 2013
Blake Jones was on top of the world this week.

Blake Jones, on top in this photo and on top of the world this week.

For the archive links for this and all my Franorama 2.0 shows on Cygnus Radio, click here. The show airs live from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT (7-10 a.m. PDT, 2-5 p.m. GMT) Fridays.

With each week, I’m more psyched about this online radio thing.

In terms of technical matters, this latest edition of Franorama 2.0 on Cygnus Radio was the best and smoothest yet in my nearly three short months there. No glitches — the software and the mic/headset were both on their best behavior, and the voice levels were perfect. (Laptop radio is, indeed, a different world than terrestrial radio, with its higher-end equipment …)

Musically, it was smooth sailing, too. I finally started, after nine months home, plowing into my storage bin and pulling CDs to rip into this here laptop/station. The little things mean a lot. In this case: getting comfortable with processing the thousands of songs through my computer music files instead of manually rifling through records and CD cases, as in days of old. I think I’m finally there. Like everything, it takes a little time, and the more I do it, and the more I access my files, the more I remember what I have … and the more angles I can bounce into my shows. Garage meets soul meets rockabilly/roots meets country meets punk meets … the Great American Songbook.

To start the final hour, I featured a set to celebrate the 50th birthday of one of my favorite people — and one of the best pop songwriters you might never have heard — the first non-Fresno Bee person I met in Fresno in 2004, Blake Jones. This comes in advance of his new EP, Teasers from the Whispermaphone, which should be out any day now.

The only thing that came close to a glitch, but ended up being a happy accident, came right at the end of the show. Curse that social media …

Still dead, unfortunately.

Still dead, unfortunately.

I usually keep up with things on my Facebook page as I do the show just in case some news breaks (like the death of George Jones two weeks prior). In this case, a few minutes before the end, someone, or someones, posted links to Lena Horne’s obituary. I read it, saw that she had died May 9 — which would have been the day before the show — and quickly shared the post and subbed out my final song, Dave Edmunds’ version of John Fogerty’s “Almost Saturday Night,” for “Stormy Weather.”

Not realizing that she died May 9 three years ago. Something that somehow slipped past me at the time. Since she’s ageless, it wasn’t a bad choice to close the show, but still … Damn that social media!

Anyway, what is encouraging is that musicians are starting to respond to the show and send their latest recordings for airplay — just like old times. This week, Ed Valauskas, onetime New Haven scenester (with The Gravel Pit) and longtime Boston fixture, sent two new offerings from his Q Division studio — The new album by Christian McNeill & Sea Monsters, Everything’s Up for Grabs, and the new country EP by Ed’s wife, Jen D’Angora (of Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents fame), under the name Jenny Dee & Several Men of Mystery.

Anyway, if you’re a musician who wants to get some airplay here — if I like it, I’ll play it. Message me here or on my Facebook page — and I’ll send you my address. And come back and join me next week — there’s always room for you here in the studio!


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 …


Cygnus Radio Playlist 3/22/13: ‘Please Please Me’ and other delights

March 23, 2013
Released on this date in 1963.

Released on this date in 1963.

For the archived links to this show and all my other Cygnus Radio shows, click here.

My fourth Franorama 2.0 show on Cygnus Radio was the first show of spring .. and for the first time all week, I could look out my window and see pure sunlight. And, after some stormy goings my first three shows, as I adjusted to the new and sometimes-balky software, this episode went smoothly. I felt the same comfort in my bedroom studio that I’ve felt for years in front of the board at WPKN.

And that’s a good thing, because, while I do have a general idea of where my shows are going musically, it did take some detours because of events I didn’t know about when I woke up two hours before.

During my morning romp through the Interwebs and the Book of Faces, I discovered three things that changed the course of the show:

  • This morning was the 50th anniversary of Parlophone’s release of The Beatles’ debut album, Please Please Me. And it was also the 52nd anniversary of John, Paul, George and Pete debuting as a quartet at the Cavern Club. As such, my opening set was loaded with The Kaisers (the ’90s Scottish beat band with the 1962 Cavern Club sound), The New Piccadillys (the current Scottish beat band, with two ex-Kaisers, doing one of the best remakes I’ve ever heard — The Ramones’ “Judy Is a Punk”), The Rutles … and, of course, “Please Please Me.”
  • On the sad side, I learned of the death of another mainstay of the early New Haven alt-music scene; Tom Hosier passed in the wee hours after a long battle with lung cancer. I only met Tom once — sushi dinner with some mutual friends at Miso in New Haven in August 1998 — but I heard nothing but good things about him from his many friends. He was one of the guitarists/singers in Disturbance, which was actually the first New Haven alt-music band I ever saw (Oxford Ale House, January 1980). Tom moved in the early ’80s to New York — where he lived until his final months — and for a long time booked Nightingales, the semi-legendary club on Second Avenue and 13th Street in the East Village. And Craig Bell’s CD care package from the week before proved to be serendipitous; among the discs was the CD version of the ’80s New Haven compilation “It Happened … But Nobody Noticed,” so I was able to play Disturbance’s “Somebody Move.”
  • And a news story came over about the Library of Congress’ addition of 25 more recordings to the National Recording Registry. Included were the 1949 original cast recording of South Pacific; the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack; Van Cliburn’s historic 1958 performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1; Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come; a D-Day radio broadcast by George Hicks; the first recording sent into space, recorded by Dwight Eisenhower and placed aboard the first communications satellite in 1958; Philip Glass & Robert Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach … and the three recordings that made up one set: Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” the best-known track from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Chubby Checker’s version of “The Twist” … and four songs from the first Ramones album.

And there were the usual dig-em-ups that were a staple of my WPKN Franorama shows before the exile in California. Through the magic of downloads, I found four especially cool gems you never, ever hear.

One was one of my favorite cartoon songs from childhood: “Makin’ With the Magilla.” Never knew who recorded it until recently — that queen of the New York surf, Little Eva. Also, Squeeze’s “Squabs on Forty Fab” — the band’s cheeky response to the “Stars on 45” craze of the early ’80s; they recorded it as the English B-side of the “Labelled With Love” 45, which languishes in my storage space. Another was the original version of my favorite song from my favorite band’s last album — Jamaican singer Ken Parker’s 1970 single “I Can’t Hide,” raved-up by The Fleshtones two years ago on Brooklyn Sound Solution. And there was the original of one of Simply Red’s greatest hits — The Valentine Brothers, out of Chicago, with the 1982 recording of “Money’s Too Tight to Mention.”

Well, that was too much fun for one week. More to come next and every Friday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT (7-10 a.m. PDT, 3-6 p.m. GMT). Or link here to the archives. I guarantee you’ll get more work done with this show than with a six-pack of Red Bulls.

And if you have an act you feel should be played on my show — well, if I like it, I’ll play it. Just message me here or on my Facebook Franorama 2.0/Franorama World page for a mailing address. Ciao for now …


Five Songs, Part 93 (Back Home Edition)

August 24, 2012

Well, my move across the country back to Connecticut is over — though the recovery process surely isn’t — but in the interest of life returning to whatever passes for “normal” in my world, I’m back to Five Songs this week.

Despite not being in any shape to go out, I dolled up adequately enough Tuesday night and dragged myself out of the house to see Candye Kane at Cafe Nine in New Haven. (And shame on the so-called music community — only about 40 people at the show. I came home expecting better.)

It’ll be a blog post eventually about body matters — a conversation launched by Candye as her intro to the song I included this week — but the show was a hell of a lot of fun … even more so because one of stalwart sisters of the blues, Debbie Davies (who I believe still lives in Stratford), showed up to join Candye and her own ace guitarist, Laura Chavez, on stage, and be honored with a birthday cake.

Anyway, now that I’m home, I’ll be back to posting (and getting caught up) in between sending out resumes (six this first week back) and allegedly working on my book. So dig in and go enjoy the weekend …

I’m So Tired — The Beatles

200 Lbs. of Fun — Candye Kane

Something’s Gonna Happen — Marshall Crenshaw

It’s Gonna Happen — The Undertones

Back Home Again — John Denver

Five Songs, Part 88

July 13, 2012

So, Jimi … we have a soiree for the top brass this Saturday. You think you can get down “Never on Sunday” by then?

Hey. Starting to make heads or tails of the things I have to move home in a few weeks, and sorting out things here and there — plus starting to catch up with friends before the move home — so all I’ve had time to write this week is the latest installment of Five Songs.

It was an interesting Hendrix week; someone posted a photo of Jimi backstage before one of his shows opening for The Monkees; someone posted a photo of Jimi in his uniform playing guitar (a Danelectro! And no fringes on his jacket!) with the 82nd Airborne in 1962; someone else posted a radio aircheck from WKNR (Keener Radio) in Detroit in 1967 promoting the Experience’s first show in America opening for The Monkees; and a friend had surgery on one of her little wings this week. Add in temperatures in the upper 100s and a random song popping up on my laptop Wednesday night when it was still nearly 90 outside, and you have a weirder-than-usual Five Songs.

Anyway, here you go. And if you can either contribute to my mini-kickstarter of sorts to help me get home (by hitting that yellow button below), or steer me to a whom-you-know job lead, that would be wonderful. Hope you enjoy it:

Little Wing — Jimi Hendrix

The Jimi Hendrix Experience opens for The Monkees — WKNR aircheck (Scott Regan)

Jingle Bell Rock — Bobby Helms

Nothing Happens Here but You (live from The Infernal Racket Show, Feb. 18, 2008) — Tracie Young

I Should Have Known Better — The Beatles

Desiree — Hoodoo Gurus

Five Songs, Part 77

April 27, 2012

Hi. Five new Five Songs, for what they’re worth. And, at the last minute, a sixth song I had forgotten from earlier this week that popped back into my brain when I was done. A little bit trippy, a little bit tasty, a little bit tormented — just like life, actually. Enjoy …

I’ve Been Here Before — Lush

Funk-Pop-A-Roll — XTC

1-2-3 — Len Barry

Nothing but Heartaches — The Supremes

I’m Down — The Beatles

Wade in the Water — Ramsey Lewis Trio

Five Songs, Part 61

January 6, 2012

Well, as if by magic — I waved a wand, exorcised the demons at the stroke of midnight, and 2012 was suddenly a much, much better place than 2011.


Back to not working (at least much), feeling I’ve somehow alienated some people near and dear to me, realizing I’ve been wearing out my welcome with everyone. Anger, sadness, confusion, an overwhelming sense of darkness. Feels like 2011 all over again. And I can’t do this again.

Oh well … Here’s this week’s Five Songs, for better and worse. At least the sun always comes out in Fresno, even if the sky’s polluted:

I Need You — The Beatles

A Hazy Shade of Winter — Simon & Garfunkel

Paint It, Black — The Rolling Stones

I’ve Got to Dance to Keep From Crying — The Miracles

Failure — Swans

Five Songs, Part 60 (Good riddance, 2011)

December 30, 2011

Hi. Let’s get 2011 the hell over with. The weirdest and most trying calendar year of my life, less than two days away from disappearing from my life. After which all good things are gonna come in a huge, onrushing ball: the great (and great-paying job), the move back East, the soulmate/love of my life, the bestselling book on my life. As The Remains once sang, all good things don’t have to end. As Chicago sang, it’s only the beginning of what I want to feel forever.

Anyway, I leave 2011 behind with a free-association of things related to this week. Zooey Desachanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt reunited to break out a YouTube of “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” What I’m doing, unless I get called into work, is seeing my pal Blake Jones and Nate Butler and their Beatles band, The Beetles, at the Starline in Fresno. And Monday and Tuesday of this week, some of my friends at home were lucky-dog enough to see a two-night reunion of arguably the greatest blue-eyed soul group of all, Connecticut’s Wildweeds, fronted by Al Anderson, at the Iron Horse in Northampton, Mass.

So anyway, here’s to hoping you find better things, as Ray Davies so sweetly and wonderfully put it. And as I say at the stroke of midnight every Jan. 1 — and will scream unequivocally and not so eloquently, at the top of my fucking lungs, this time around — ONWARD!

What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? — Zooey Deschanel & Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Any Time at All — The Beatles

No Good to Cry (Iron Horse, Northampton, Mass., 12/27/11) — The Wildweeds

A Celebration — U2

Auld Lang Syne — The Reducers