Posts Tagged ‘Todd Rundgren’

Cygnus Radio playlist 6/28/13: The week that was the last wek of June

July 2, 2013

June calendarFranorama 2.0 airs live on Cygnus Radio from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT Fridays (9 a.m.-noon CDT, 7-10 a.m. PDT, 2-4 p.m. GMT) and in the archive in perpetuity. To get to the archives, click here.

Well, for the first time in a long time, there was no planned theme to the most recent episode of Franorama 2.0 on Cygnus Radio. But, as usually happens, some mini-themes begin to sprout from the fertile little garden that is my brain (and, by extension, my wife the laptop, upon which I write this here blog and do this here radio show):

Game Theory and Big Star: Two cult-following groups that were honored with tribute shows in Manhattan this past weekend. Actually went to the Scott Miller benefit tribute show Saturday night at the Cake Shop, thanks to Ms. Marice, who had an extra ticket. (The quick backstory: Scott, a fine pop singer/songwriter who led Game Theory in the ’80s and The Loud Family in the ’90s, died unexpectedly in April. The benefit was to raise money for his family.) The 18-song show was kinda sloppy and (especially early on) disorganized, but got better as the night went on, highlighted by a couple songs performed by Ted Leo. I didn’t get to the free show at Central Park’s Summerstage the next night — a performance of Big Star’s Third in its entirety (if not in order), headed by Mitch Easter, along with Big Star’s Jody Stephens and Ken Stringfellow, and including the likes of Marshall Crenshaw, Mike Mills and Richard Lloyd. But I noted both events on my show.

Gettysburg: Yesterday (July 1) was the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the most pivotal event in the most pivotal period of American history. The three bloodiest days ever encountered on American soil. And so I called up the two Civil War rock songs I knew of — David Kincaid (who is a Civil War re-enactor and has carved a career singing period songs in authentic replica Union uniforms) leading The Brandos through “Gettysburg,” and Richard X. Heyman’s “Civil War Buff.” (Well, five songs, but I wasn’t gonna play Iced Earth’s 31-minute “Gettysburg” Trilogy …)

That was the week that was: The Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act, a filibuster in Texas that turned a heretofore-unknown state senator from Fort Worth into a national political figure (and unwitting Mizuno running shoe pitchwoman), the Supremes striking two huge blows for marriage equality, and the (still-continuing as of now) Nelson Mandela death watch. A heavy news week that made its way, in a way, into the show.

Anyway, catch you this Friday. Stay tuned. And please tell your friends to tune in while they while away at their desks or loaf or do the housework …

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Five Songs, Part 100

November 24, 2012

Joe Franklin — the man, the myth, the legend. But not a singer. He left that to Eddie Cantor and Sophie Tucker.

Well, nothing stupendous or colossal or big! big! big! or any of those other stellar adjectives that Joe Franklin, the self-styled “King of Nostalgia,” used to use on his show as I put together this mini-milestone 100th installment of Five Songs.

(And if you didn’t grow up in the New York area and/or are of a younger generation: The imitable-yet-inimitabe Joe was the king of late-night television, having hosted a talk show in New York (and Jersey, when Channel 9 relocated across the river to Secaucus) for 43 years (1950-93). While he interviewed hundreds of thousands of nobodies, there were a few somebodies as well: Jerry Lewis, boyhood pal Tony Curtis, Paul Newman, Barbra Streisand, Buster Keaton, The Ramones, “Weird Al,” They Might Be Giants, occasional visitor Tiny Tim. First time I really tuned in, in college, The J.Geils Band was on, Freeze-Frame era, splattering the studio with paint and having a couple of beauties present Joe with a six-foot-tall trophy for being the “King of Television.” One day, I’ll tell you about how I helped start an international Honeymooners fan club with his help. And the first link above is to a wonderful documentary called 50,000,000 Joe Franklin Fans Can’t Be Wrong.)

That’s because, well, it’s Thanksgiving weekend, and I’m wondering if anyone would even be looking at what I have to read, since everyone’s wrapped up in the post-holiday. (Hell, I wonder if anyone even reads it in the best of times …)

So, I digressed. Anyway, I wasn’t gonna hit the Christmas tunes yet, but since I butchered this song and smeared the reputation of Ms. Veronica Bennett Spector Greenfield at the tail end of the annual Thanksgiving-night Vomitorium at Cafe Nine in New Haven, I had to somehow make amends. So one Christmas song and the rest totally random. Enjoy the remainder of the holiday:

Frosty the Snowman — The Ronettes

Couldn’t I Just Tell You — Todd Rundgren

Omaha — Moby Grape

Rhythm — Major Lance

On Easy Street — Freda Payne

My God, my God … The Beach Boys: “The SMiLE Sessions” (Capitol)

January 4, 2012

"Quiet, numbskull! We're making a masterpiece!" Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks are busy working on writing "SMiLE" in 1966 while the rest of The Beach Boys are out having fun fun fun.

Note, Jan. 2, 2012: I didn’t intend for this to be a long childbirth. I never do. I started this two months ago yesterday, the day the box set was released (which was the day it arrived at the front door). Things happen — having to scramble to buy a car, having to run around getting said car fixed, working pretty much a full schedule leading into Christmas, doing a couple of holiday things here and there. Besides, this long-awaited collection was my Christmas gift to myself, anyway, so I guess it was appropriate to wait ’til after Christmas to run this. And on the good side, this didn’t become an albatross that took 45 years to come out.

Nov. 1, 2011

All Saints’ Day. All Smiles’ Day.

This is the one luxury I’m allowing myself as I slowly climb back into the realm of the employed and the solvent. Today is my Christmas. And I can’t believe my gift to myself came early on the appointed day.

Sitting in the foyer this morning was a package containing the deluxe version of The Beach Boys’ “The SMiLE Sessions,” the final, long, looooooooooooong-awaited, shattered — then painstakingly restored and reassembled — jigsaw pieces of one of the most beautiful, saddening, maddening episodes in the history of popular music.

The deluxe five-CD version in a box with 3-D cover art, along with a two-LP version of the album with some extras, two 45s, a fancy hardcover booklet and a poster. There's also a much less expensive, less comprehensive two-CD version.

An album that was begun before I even started kindergarten, when Brian Wilson started working on “Good Vibrations,” finally, officially arrived in a completed form today.

Diehard Brian fans have heard many of the pieces in one form or another in countless bootleg versions through the years, versions of the album as compiled by fans; many shards were included on Capitol’s “Good Vibrations” Beach Boys box set in 1993 and, of course, there’s the fine 2004 studio version Brian recorded with his current band. (I was so scared to hear it that I didn’t buy it for three months, then finally gave in and listened and was stunned.)

But this is different. The 2004 “SMiLE’ was sung by a 62-year-old Brian, with plenty of help from his band, not the 26-year-old Brian at his creative and vocal peaks; it was a bargain I willfully accepted — and it was a brilliant piece of work — but it wasn’t The Beach Boys.

This is The Beach Boys — Brian, Carl, Dennis, Mike, Al, Bruce — as they would never be again. Granted, the album in this here box set was put together and sequenced by a 69-year-old Brian (along with his “SMiLE” lyricist, Van Dyke Parks, and his co-producers, Mark Linnett and Alan Boyd). But hey, it was his creation in the first place. This was, and is, his vision. And this is as close to what he might have been thinking at the time as we’ll ever hear.

My work schedule precludes me listening to the five CDs right now,  but I sat there at my desk today, I felt a strange emotion hit me as I was listening to “Do You Like Worms? (Roll Plymouth Rock).” Maybe, as a tune that taps into American history and the exploration of the West, it was a direct connection to “Rio Grande” and the absolute joy I felt when I first listened to Brian’s solo album in the summer of 1988. Except out of nowhere, I felt myself choke up. It was momentary, but its suddenness startled me.

And eight songs later, it was “Surf’s Up.” I thought it was beautiful the first time I heard it as a teenager — one of the most beautiful songs I had ever heard — with its melancholy piano, abstract lyrics (“Columnnated ruins domino/Canvas the town and brush the backdrop/Are you sleeping/Brother John?”) and Brian’s soaring, angelic falsetto. But sitting here today listening to it — remastered and cleaned-up, in the context of an officially sanctioned “SMiLE” masterminded by Brian? I started shaking. And then it became sobs.

My God, my God …

In my 50 years, I had never experienced the dichotomy of tears of joy until this point. The joy of both Brian and myself having stuck around long enough to see and hear this happen — and knowing what he had gone through emotionally to get to this point. Plus the sadness that comes with knowing this is the end of something.

I don’t believe in the concept of “closure” — to me, it’s a senseless word tossed around carelessly by outsiders — but if something comes close, I guess this is it. It’s the glorious end of a glorious chapter of music, of a story that’s full of what sells books: joy, pain, angst, sadness, loss, mystery, redemption, paradise lost and found. The conclusion of a book that’s been written in fits and starts most of my life. And as a fan, when you carry a book around for three decades, even just spiritually and emotionally, if not physically, it’s hard to let go.

And I thought back to the spring of 1990, when Garry Trudeau ran that incredible week of Pulitzer-winning Doonesbury strips — Joanie’s lawyer friend, Andy Lippincott, getting to hear the remastered “Pet Sounds” on CD (which, along with Capitol’s first CD remastering of the entire Beach Boys catalog, was a huge deal at the time) as he lay on his deathbed from AIDS. I’m not ready to die (well, I certainly hope not), but now I can die knowing I’ve heard an official, honest-to-goodness version of “SMiLE,” the great lost album. (more…)