Posts Tagged ‘The Reducers’

Cygnus Radio playlist 6/21/13: ‘Cause it’s summer

June 25, 2013

SummerSolstice7Franorama 2.0 airs live 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, and in the archives in perpetuity. For the link to the archives, click here.

The summer solstice took place at 1:04 a.m. Friday, while most of you were sleeping. But not here at Franorama 2.0 World Domination Headquarters, where the staff (okay, it’s just me, but please do pay attention to the woman behind the curtain) worked feverishly rounding up songs that screamed summer. Well, maybe not all of them screamed, but emoted it melodically. And it did serve to launch your summer — and mine — in a fun way.

And not all of it was The Beach Boys. In fact, very little of it had to do with The Beach Boys — though the summer tribute show did dovetail nicely into acknowledgements of both Brian Wilson’s 71st birthday, and the 69th birthday of another of my faves, Ray Davies  of The Kinks.

Get SlimBut there were also a couple of small tributes to people who left the mortal coil ahead of the show. The musical bed for most of the show was A3’s “Woke Up This Morning” — aka the theme to The Sopranos — as my small nod to that acting giant, James Gandolfini. (And as an aside, one of the bands I played actually did appear on The Sopranos — The Swingin’ Neckbreakers once performed in a scene in Adriana’s nightclub.) And a singer who died earlier Wednesday, who was part of my late-night TV repertoire for years — the man who sold more records on late-night TV than Elvis or The Beatles, the man who saved the planet from a Martian invasion! — Slim Whitman.

Anyway, no theme, rhyme or reason planned for this Friday’s show — and hopefully, no tributes to the dearly departed for once. Pass the sunscreen …

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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 and WPKN playlists, 5/17/13: I got (algo)rithm

May 20, 2013
Ernie Banks was right -- it was a wonderful day to play two.

Ernie Banks was right — it was a wonderful day to play two.

For the links to this and all other Franorama 2.0 shows on Cygnus Radio, click here. For the link to this episode of Franorama 2.0 on WPKN, click here. Franorama 2.0 can be heard live on Cygnus Radio from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT (7-10 a.m. PDT) Fridays; WPKN shows are on a fill-in basis for now; keep posted on the station’s Facebook page.

Well, this past Friday, for the first time, I did radio shows on two different stations on the same day — the Franorama 2.0 Double-Duty Day-Night Doubleheader. First, my regular 10 a.m.-1 p.m. shift from the comfort of home on Cygnus Radio, then down to Bridgeport for a 4-7 p.m. fill-in on WPKN. Howard Thompson, the host of the regularly scheduled show, Pure — and a longtime big-label record executive — trusted my musical tastes (thanks for the endorsement), to let me take the reins.

Anyway, it was exhausting but fun. I think I swept both ends of the doubleheader. And the day wasn’t just fun, it left me feeling a little optimistic at a time when I desperately need optimism.

The Cygnus show, now on the air three months, is still a fledging show on an upstart station, and understandably, the audience is small for now. But a funny thing happened just past the first half hour — the number of listeners jumped 2 1/2 times, then it tripled, and withing five minutes, it had quadrupled. (I have the analytics right there on the screen as I play.) And I kept about two-thirds of that audience for the rest of the show.

This had to be a glitch, right? A spam attack or something? An undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese? Well, no. I texted our fearless leader, Gary Gone, to ask about this, and he explained: However the Apple algorithems work — and who knows how these damn things work? — someone at iTunes apparently labeled my show as a must-listen, which prompted huge the jump in listeners all of a sudden.

Coolness! I’m hoping this is the door opening just a crack enough for the flood to start rushing in. I need something to happen! I’m hoping the people who came and stayed will tell their friends, who, in turn, will tell their friends, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera …

Anyway, a couple musical highlights of the day:

The Outta Sites (both shows): Chris “Sugarballs” Sprague, who made a sideways appearance in a blog post here a couple weeks ago, is one of the hardest-working musicians I know: longtime drummer/second guitarist for

Chris Sprague (second from left) fronting The Outta Sites.

Chris Sprague (second from left) fronting The Outta Sites.

Deke Dickerson … has been playing drums for Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys (who came to Cafe Nine in New Haven the previous weekend) … behind the kit for Los Straitjackets (who come to Cafe Nine June 10) … and now, he fronts his own band, The Outta Sites. Their newly released debut album, Up All Night, is a killer. Think one part Dave Clark Five, one part That Thing You Do, one part Nuggets and Pebbles collections, throw in the atmosphere of the mid-’60s L.A. club scene, and you get the picture.

Jonathan Richman and The Velvet Underground (WPKN): An old friend, Lauren, who lives and works around Hartford, messaged me on the Book of Faces the night before to ask if I could play the Velvets. I started, at long last, pulling boxes of CDs from my storage space to rip into this laptop that serves as my radio station and traveling music library. But I haven’t found my Velvets box set yet. Anyway, I did find one VU song, but not until after I steered her to Jonathan Richman, the onetime VU groupie, singing “Velvet Underground” … and one of our mutual faves, “Double Chocolate Malted” (No nuts! No nuts!), and, for good measure, The Groovie Ghoulies playing a Jonathan song.

Well, that’s enough for now. Back to a single Cygnus shift this Friday, leading into the holiday weekend. Please drop in and give a listen. And if you like what you hear, tell your friends, and tell your friends to tell their friends. And “like” my Franorama 2.0/Franorama World Facebook page. And if you’re so inclined to help out financially, there’s a PayPal button at the end of each blog post.  Anyway, catch you this Friday!

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Cygnus Radio playlist, 2/22/13: Iiiiiin myyyy roooooom …

March 18, 2013
Yeah, that's what I look like without coffee. In the bedroom -- I mean, the studio -- for the first show.

Yeah, that’s what I look like without coffee. In the bedroom — I mean, the studio — for the first show.

Feb. 22, 2013

To listen to the mp3 archive file of the show, click here.

The world will little note, nor long remember, what we did here … but it was a hell of a lot of fun.

It took a couple of go-rounds with the software the past week — and there were a couple of glitches during the show, such as songs disappearing from the play queue instead of cueing up to play, but I didn’t tell you that — but after 22 years of terrestrial radio (plus streaming the last three or four years) at WPKN in Bridgeport, my Franorama 2.0 show made its online debut the final Friday of February on Cygnus Radio. (I’m still doing fill-ins at PKN, though.)

This was a few months in the making. I’ve known Gary Vollono, aka Gary Gone, who runs the station, since the manager of the mail room at the New Haven Register (when it still printed its own papers) and I was the entertainment editor music writer. He would get a hold of me sometimes as I was heading from the composing room (remember those, ex-jourmalists?) back to the newsroom and talk tunes. Anyway, Gary has built himself a nice little indie label called IndepenDisc, and he started doing his online show here while I was in exile in California, and now he runs the show, and when I moved home, he asked me if I was interested in doing a show. And here we are.

Gotta tell you — the weirdest part of the whole inaugural show was the best. I did the show from bed — well, not under the covers; I was sitting on top of a made bed — but still, I was doing radio from my bedroom. When I started at WPKN, who knew the technology would one day be available to not only not need an actual radio transmitter, but to do a full show off a laptop computer in my room? And without a single record or CD? Yep — I have thousands of songs right here on this here laptop. Technology sucks a lot, but sometimes it’s kinda fun.

I did the show with no coffee, and I looked like a wreck, and while I wasn’t quite a wreck beneath the airwaves, I was a little bit tense, as will happen with something new. But, aside from needing to work on adjusting my voice levels, I think it went well. And I paid tribute to the memory of the legendary Shadow Morton with a set of Shangri-Las, plus the 2007 album by their lead singer, Mary Weiss (with The Reigning Sound), and Neko Case doing her killer version of one of their best tunes.

And it can only go up from here. I hope.

Anyway, if you like what you hear, please tell your friends and loved ones. We’re trying to grow the station. If you’re on the East Coast, it’s a great substitute for coffee. If you’re on the West Coast, it’s your Friday-morning kick in the ass out of bed. And if you’re over in Europe, it makes for great music leading into dinner.

Here’s what I played for openers. Plenty more where that came from — especially as I get the energy up to dig into my storage space and rip some CDs into this machine here. Anyway, have fun …

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WPKN Playlist, 1/10/13: Leading off the year …

February 7, 2013
The Suzan -- here to destroy your conceptions of Japanese girl groups.

The Suzan — here to destroy your conceptions of Japanese girl groups once and for all.

Feb. 7, 2013

Well, I’ve had a couple of previous WPKN playlists swimming around in my purse over the past month, and as you girls know, a purse is a dangerous place to place something, as most things that enter never leave. (Cue up the “BWAhahahaaaaaaaa!” and the ensuing shriek here …)

So after doing another fill-in this morning, I realized it was time to fishing for pieces of paper with journalist’s scrawl on them.

Ten days into the new year, I did my first fill-in of 2013, a two-hour drag race (10 a.m.-noon), filling in for Binnie Klein. (She said “drag” …) It was a short and sweet and fun two hours, that’s for sure. After my previous show, two days following the Newtown massacre, anything would’ve been a step up. But it was a few steps up from that.

Let’s see … Three things stick out from this show:

  • My Fresno pal Jes Farnsworth, the frontman for The Backstabbers and nephew of late Reducers bassist Steve Kaika, has a bigger job at the moment: playing guitar for Newsted, the new trio fronted by ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted. The debut four-song EP, Metal, came out two days before. And since it was Jes (who also has a tour as a gun for hire with Jetboy on his resume), I placed them in a Reducers sandwich — Frigate’s track from the tribute album on top, my track with The Backstabbers and one by The Reducers themselves on the bottom …
  • New David Bowie, who turned 66 two days before the show. We managed to get a hold of “Where Are We Now,” the first song from his first album in 10 years, The Next Day, due out in March. It’s kind of a dirgy, gloomy song, but we hear the album as a whole (as produced by his old collaborator, Tony Visconti) is a bit more spirited. His health has been rumoured to have been bad for some time (think about the non-cancerous illnesses one encounters after years of smoking), but ill or not, here he is.
  • The Suzan. I saw them the previous Saturday night at Cafe Nine. Four girls who moved from Tokyo to Harlem two years ago. Talk about shattering concepts … I thought they’d be this cutesy group playing tinny-sounding songs with phonetically sung words and saying things like “Thank you! Buy our CDs!” after every songs, such as The 5.6.7.8’s (who actually did that when they opened for Dick Dale at Maxwell’s in Hoboken in October ’93) and Shonen Knife. The Suzan led off with two songs that reminded me of Talking Heads — in fact, “Come Come” sounded like a hybrid of “(Nothing but) Flowers” and “Iko Iko.” And along the way, they channeled Blondie as well. (And oddly enough, their manager, Greg Vegas, an old friend from his days in the Danbury scene in the late ’80s/early ’90s, told me they had never heard Talking Heads …) A lot of osmosis going on and pleasant surprise.

Anyway, enough yapping. It was fun. Here you go — two more to come in the coming days:

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Five Songs, Part 84 (The Reducers/Steve Kaika memorial edition)

June 12, 2012

The Reducers, eternally. From the 2010 Sailfest in New London. From left: Hugh Birdsall, Peter Detmold and Steve Kaika; Tom Trombley on drums. Photo from Wailingcity.com.

I started putting together this greatly extended Five Songs on Sunday (June 10), knowing what was coming.

I got a Facebook message that morning from my friend Jes Farnsworth, aka Jes Reckless, out here in Fresno. Jes is the frontman for an excellent trio called The Backstabbers, heavily influenced by early punk. Interspersed among their originals (they released their first CD in May) are a bunch of great covers: The Stooges’ “Search and Destroy,” 999’s “Homicide,” The Flamin’ Groovies’ “Shake Some Action,” Roky Erickson’s “Two-Headed Dog” …

and any of a number of songs by one of my favorite bands ever — one of the most underrated and overlooked bands America has had to offer, The Reducers. From back home, in Connecticut, in New London. Same four guys since 1978: Peter Detmold and Hugh Birdsall, the co-lead singers/co-lead guitarists/songwriters, Steve Kaika on bass, Tom Trombley on drums. Influenced equally by the ’70s English pub rock and the early punk Peter and Hughie love so much, they released three tremendous introductory albums in successive years (The Reducers, 1983; Let’s Go, 1984, Cruise to Nowhere, 1985), were labeled “America’s Best Unsigned Band” by CMJ in ’86 and included on an Epic Records Unsigned compilation LP. But they never signed with anyone and decided to just keep doing what they were doing, and to a man, they’ll tell you it’s why they stayed together all these years. (They explained it in Bill Dumas’ 2006 documentary, The Reducers: America’s Best Unsigned Band, in which I was happy to be one of the many talking heads.) And despite the imminent mortality we all face, there was something eternal about them, something that spoiled me — many of us — into thinking this would go on forever.

The Reducers canceled a show last December at New London’s Bank Street Cafe — their first cancellation in ages — owing to “a bug” Steve contracted. Then, in January, another cancellation. And the word slowly got out that Steve wasn’t doing well. In late winter, word got out that it was lung cancer.

Jes happens to be Steve’s nephew. I found that out by happy accident in 2005, a year after I moved to Fresno. I wore a Reducers Shinola T-shirt to a show at the Starline one night, and the kid at the ticket booth asked, “Are those The Reducers from Connecticut?” “Yessss,” I said with arched eyebrow. “My buddy’s uncle plays in The Reducers.” “Holy shit! Who?” A connection to home! A year later, I finally met Jes, who grew up in Waterford, Steve’s hometown, before moving west, and was heavily influenced by his uncle.and his band. And Jes (and his father, Robin) and I all happened to be back in Connecticut near summer’s end of 2008; the last time I saw The Reducers, that Labor Day Saturday at Ocean Beach Park in New London, Jes actually took Hugh’s place on guitar for one song. (It was kinda weird to be standing next to Hughie in the crowd while The Reducers played.)

With The Backstabbers, I’ve seen Jes play “Let’s Go,” “No Ambition,” “Bums I Used to Know” and, last Friday at Audie’s Olympic, on a bill with Peter Case, “Life in the Neighborhood.” It’s a song that they’ll be recording for a Reducers tribute album Jes is putting together to benefit Steve — who, as a self-employed contractor, had no health insurance. (As of now, there are at least 25 acts who have recorded, or are recording, songs for the disc. I’m supposed to be singing “Out of Step” with them.)

Anyway, he messaged me that he was flying back to Connecticut on Thursday because Steve might not make it through the week, and that he might even be too late by that point.

He got the call around 1 this morning Pacific Time.

Dammit. I was hoping, between Jes flying home and the benefit show that Steve’s friends are throwing Friday night at New London’s Hygienic Art Park, that he would’ve lasted the week.

*****

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Five Songs, Part 79

May 11, 2012

Hi. Friday comes around fast in these parts — I’m afraid it comes around faster the older you get — and time for the latest Five Songs.

Not much thought put into it — pretty much random selections from the mental jukebox, as usual — but a couple of the songs were closer to the surface.

Nils Logfren popped into my brain because I’ve had a couple discussions this past week about the ’70s and the lost art of the live album, and one of my favorite unsung albums ever, live or otherwise, is Nils’ double-LP Night After Night, from ’78. Since YouTube didn’t have the song I was looking for (the opening medley of “Take You to the Movies”/”Back It Up”), I dug up and earlier version of “Back It Up.”

And The Reducers aren’t close to the surface — they’re above it. Been playing my Redux CD over and over in the car about a week and a half now — partially because I’m getting down “Out of Step” to record with The Backstabbers for an upcoming tribute album to benefit The Reducers’ ailing bassist, Steve Kaika; partially because, well, does anyone need an excuse to play The Reducers, and loudly, in the car?

Go nuts. Enjoy the weekend:

Rock Me Baby — Sugar Pie DeSanto

Back It Up — Nils Lofgren

Brand New Cadillac — Vince Taylor & His Playboys

Bernadette — The Four Tops

Let’s Go — The Reducers

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