Friday, March 25, 2016

Under the Radar: Music Edition

Redartz: Greetings, everyone! Awhile back I did a post discussing favorite comic book stories that may have been overlooked by many. In his comment, our friend Martinex1 posited revisiting this topic, only using music as the subject. I couldn't let a great suggestion like that go to waste;and so here we go...

As before, our topic today is to throw out some recommendations for great tunes and artists which we may be a bit less familiar with  ( and there are plenty this writer is sadly ignorant of). Therefore, as much as I love the Beatles, ABBA and Bowie, they probably won't qualify* (note the unsubtle nod to BAB there...) .  You might bring up a singer, a band, an album, or a beloved obscure single ( or 45, for most of us).
*a caveat here- you may be aware of an obscure recording from some such artist, which certainly would be fair game...

And so, with no further nonsensical babbling , I present three submissions for your consideration; one artist, one album, and one forgotten single. Billboard chart positions courtesy of "The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits" by Joel Whitburn- a treasure trove of info for music trivia buffs, and a great shopping list for I-Tunes...

  1. Ian Gomm - Formerly a guitarist with English pub rock group Brinsley Schwarz, Gomm went solo in the late 70's, releasing some excellent pop rock on albums such as “Gomm With the Wind” and “What a Blow”. Here's a clip of Ian performing “Hold On” (Billboard Hot 100 peak at 18) from 1979:
  1. Madness - “One Step Beyond” - Perhaps most famous on this side of the Atlantic for their big hit in 1983, “Our House”. Madness' debut album featured many terrific cuts, including the title track, “Tarzan's Nuts” (the coolest version of the Tarzan theme you'll ever hear) and a rocking take on “Swan Lake”. For your enjoyment, a clip of one of my favorite cuts from this album, “Night Boat to Cairo”:

3. Dickie Goodman- “ Energy Crisis '74”- Richard “Dickie” Goodman was a record producer who made numerous novelty recordings between the late 50's and late 70's. A common feature of his recordings was the use of clips from popular songs of the era, edited together with Goodman's narration to form a humorous story or parody. Many may recall his song “Mr. Jaws”, released in 1975 following the big splash (sorry) made by the famed shark movie. Less commonly heard is this cut from early 1974, addressing the fuel shortages then in the news. This peaked briefly on Billboard's Hot Hundred at 33. As a sucker for humor, and a true follower of Dr. Demento, this song really appealed to me. Here it is, thanks again to youtube:

Okay, now let's hear from you. Dust off that vinyl, untangle that cassette, crack open that jewel cd case and let us know what audio gems you have hidden...


Humanbelly said...

Geesh-- my Flinstone-era laptop and obsolete (1st generation!) internet hotspot are sadly unable to deal with those links at this point, which does make me sad. . . !

And my painfully conventional, near-bubblegum taste in pop music probably makes me a less-than insightful contributor to this topic. But still-- Great Topic! And I'm gonna find a way to climb aboard!

I am first and foremost and overwhelmingly a Beatles guy. And the Fab Four at this point have had just about every foot of possible tape and film collected somewhere at this point and packaged for some kind of profit. Even some of their bootleg albums are more or less commonly available. But one album that I LOVED when it was released ('77, I think) was their HOLLYWOOD BOWL live album. The sound quality and mixing is so rough that I believe it never had a release on CD in the U.S. George Martin's liner notes, IIRC, are almost openly apologetic. The girls scream throughout both concerts represented; voices (particularly John's) are in awful shape; lyrics are flubbed; harmonies crash; mix and balance are awful. . . and yet, and yet, and yet. . . it has always captivated me-! Vocally, I think this may be Ringo's best recording of BOYS ever-- he completely surrenders to it, and sounds, honestly, better than himself (as it were). SHE'S A WOMAN is another one where, although it's messy and rough, comes across much better here than on the studio version.

A couple of songs that popped up with the BEATLES: ANTHOLOGY series were SEARCHIN' and LEAVE MY KITTEN ALONE-- both were covers that might have been hits had they seen the light of day at the beginning of the lads' career.

Of the songs that exist in the familiar, standard release canon? I'd submit HEY BULLDOG (man, what a great piece), and I'M DOWN.

And switching to another group for the wrap: A couple of weeks ago, I was 24' up on a ladder on top of a scaffold in my shop, with the 60's channel playing on Sirius/XM (Lordy, those callers. . . ), and a song came on that sounded like. . . The Monkees. . . except, like, the BEST they could ever possibly have hoped to be. I knew it wasn't them--- and the song grabbed me so much that after the 2nd-ish verse I let go of what I was doing, and came clambering down pell-mell so I could get to the receiver screen before it was over. "HIM OR ME" by Paul Revere and the Raiders. Never heard it before. That is right now my favorite song in the world. . .

HB (the least sophisticated amongst us)

Anonymous said...

Well, 'Night Boat To Cairo' was a UK hit in 1980 and is one of my favourite Madness songs so I've never thought of it as being obscure. I'm just not cool enough for this kind of topic so I'll just mention some other UK hits that perhaps aren't well known beyond these shores. I've always loved "Are Friends Electric" by Tubeway Army (Gary Numan) which was #1 here for 4 weeks in 1979. And an "obscure" hit by an established artist - what about "Mull Of Kintyre" by Paul McCartney & the UK it was #1 for 9 weeks and was the best-selling single of the '70s but I don't think it's much known overseas, or is it ? As for "obscure" artist I'll mention Cliff Richard - probably the most famous British pop star you've never heard of...he had about 20 #1 hits from 1959-1999 but in America he had just one hit, "Devil Woman" in 1976. Just to mention, I had several editions of Joel Whitburn's Billboard Top 40 books - they taught me all about the Billboard charts. He described the Beatles' music as "the classical music of future centuries"...oh, come on.

Edo Bosnar said...

Redartz, great topic. I'm familiar with your first two choices, but the video for the third won't play at my location. However, I don't think I've ever heard of it.
HB, good call on that Paul Revere & the Raiders song - I know of it, but it's definitely more obscure than some of their bigger hits. I think you might appreciate this one: "Somewhere in Space and Time" by pop singer/songwriter Andrew Gold doing his best impression of the Byrds.
Colin, I used to absolutely *love* Ricard's "Devil Woman" when I was a kid, and I still think it's a pretty good song.

An album that I think is - if not obscure - overlooked would be the Buzzcocks'
A Different Kind of Tension. It doesn't have as many recognizable songs, but it's my favorite by far, as it has a combination of their trademark short, heavy-hitting punk(ish) songs and more experimental but still quite engaging stuff like Hollow Inside or "I Believe".

Another now obscure, or perhaps just (unfairly) forgotten artist, is funk singer Betty Davis. Here's the appropriately titled F.U.N.K., but just click on any of her songs posted on YouTube, they're all pretty awesome.

And here's my favorite song from Yothu Yindi, a band that is, I think, obscure to everyone outside of Australia: Treaty (I only know about them because a friend from Australia turned me on to them in the early 1990s). That video is pretty good, too.

Anonymous said...

My favorite "obscure" Beatles song is "Dig a Pony" off of Let It Be. I just love the rolling guitar riff and how John & Paul sing/shout the chorus.

Anyway, genuine not-hits of the Bronze Age... I'll go with the band Television. They're not super obscure, but I don't think they have much traction outside of punk or artsy-rock fans. I'm mostly indifferent to the singing & lyrics, but their music is great. They managed to blend simple songcraft with guitar-riff trade-offs, weird sounds, and awesomely odd jamming. The closest parallel is what Neil Young and Danny Whitten managed on Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, but Tom Verlaine & Richard Lloyd blur the lead/rhythm line more. Start with the song "See No Evil." My favorite recording of theirs is probably "Little Johnny Jewel" on their live album.

- Mike Loughlin

Anonymous said...

Yes, have to agree with Colin, its a bit strange to see Madness described as under the radar... a reminder of how much more global mass media tends to be these days. Although theres still a fair bit of regional variation if the steady trickle of lps by really good north African guitar bands is anything to go by.

Pretty much anything not from the US or UK tends to be considered outside the mainstream, so you hardly ever come across a mention of, say, Can or Fela Kuti in any short potted histories of popular music.
On the plus side though, this means their records haven't dated at all.


Anonymous said...
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Edo Bosnar said...

Mike L., I totally love Television, especially their album "Marquee Moon," and I'm pretty sure I've mentioned them here a few times before when music was being discussed.

Sean, ha! Funny that you should mention Fela Kuti - I was thinking about mentioning him as well, but figured my post was getting too long as it was...

Doug said...

Like HB, my musical horizons are not all that broad. I tend to know what I like and am a little hesitant to branch out. Truthfully, my loss and I mean that sincerely.

So inside my little box, I really enjoy the original 1964 (?) version of "One After 909" by the Beatles. I also infinitely like George Harrison's version of "It Don't Come Easy" over Ringo's, especially the bridge where the members of Badfinger shout "Hare Krishna!".

Colin, Cliff Richard did have a couple more hits in the US. "Dreaming" (if that's the proper title) comes to mind.

For T-Rex, I absolutely love "20th Century Boy" and "Laser Love", the former being on my athletics playlist when I do PA for soccer and baseball.

Here in the States, many of us learn of obscure songs through beer commercials! Heineken is notorious for making commercials that have me immediately scrambling to find the song title and artist. Yeah, I know -- if I'd just download Shazam it would make life a lot easier...

Dinosaur Doug

J.A. Morris said...

Some of my favorite artists of all time are relatively obscure. The Vaselines (from Glasgow) produced some brilliant jangly guitar powerpop songs in the late 80s. 'Son Of A Gun' is one of the catchiest songs of all time:

Drunken Boat, from Iowa City by way of NYC, played a bunch of shows in my town in the early 90s. They always put on a good show and their albums were pretty good too:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Humanbelly said...

I can honestly say that never in a million, octillion years would I have ever thought of naming a band "The Vaselines". Them's some brave artists, they am. . .


Martinex1 said...

Redartz thanks for kicking this off! I too am a fan of Madness; nice choice. That video was fun and harkens back to very early MTV. And HB, Paul Revere and the Raiders have been kind of forgotten but they were great. I don't recognize the name of that tune though, I will have to look that up.

Although I like everything from classical to jazz to punk, some of my favorite music comes from the late 80s and early 90s. MARY'S DANISH was a band out of CA that is hard to explain. They were a mix of rock, funk, sax, punk and sometimes a country twang, with two female vocalists. I think their best album was "Circa" from 1991. Hard to believe that was 25 years ago. The band was a victim of a bad record deal, but they turned out a few great ones in a short period of time.

There was also an indy supergroup called MIND SCIENCE OF THE MIND with a single eponymous album. It has some music that I would describe as dreamlike. Ranging from soft melodic lyrics to jarring twisting instrumentals. It's what I would imagine as a soundtrack to Dr. Strange.

And out of WALL OF VOODOO came some great "solo" work from Stan Ridgway on "The Big Heat" and "Mosquitos". But also from that band, Ridgway's replacement as lead singer Andy Prieboy had a couple of fantastic solo albums with wonderful storytelling, wit, and a wide array of influences. Last but not least, Marc Moreland, their very talented guitar player joined with the singer of Concrete Blonde to form PRETTY AND TWISTED; I enjoyed their one and only album.

On another note I've been listening a lot lately to THIN LIZZY. Can't get enough of their version of "Whisky in the Jar".

If anybody samples any of the above, I'd be curious what you think. Cheers!

Redartz said...

Thanks for the great comments, everyone! And sorry about the trouble with the links; I'll try to fix them.
HB- no worries, I'm not as worldly musically as many, and am also a huge Beatlemaniac...
Colin and Sean- Yes, I figured you would see Madness as anything but unfamiliar. Back in college in the early 80's, we would check out the British music charts to see where the exciting new music was coming from. Our Hot 100, at the time, seemed almost tame in comparison. "Grass is always greener", don't they say?

Anonymous said...

Some great bands already mentioned...I love me some T-Rex and Thin Lizzy.

How about Nazareth? They were big in Canada and the UK, but not so much in the States; everybody knows "Love Hurts", but they had some rockin' tunes too: (Razamanaz, Vancouver Shakedown, This Flight Tonight, and Hair of the Dog.

I also love X-Ray Spex; a great punk band, whose Germfree Adolescents album sounds more relevant all the time.

There are a bunch of Canadian bands I could mention too (Rough Trade, Streetheart, Trooper, Sweeney Todd, Colin James, etc.) but that could be a post all on its own.

Mike Wilson

J.A. Morris said...

I'll echo Martinex1's opinion of Mary's Danish. Their first single, 'Don't Crash Your Car Tonight' was a in heavy rotation on my college's radio station back in '89, here it is for those who don't know the band:

Steve Does Comics said...

As we've drifted onto the subject of acts who were huge in Britain but couldn't get arrested in America, the first two to leap to my mind are Slade and the Jam.

Slade were spectacularly gigantic in Britain in the early to mid-1970s before having a revival in the early 1980s, and some of us would argue they were the band that Kiss always wished they could have been. For some of us their singer Noddy Holder had the awesomest Rock voice in British history. Here's my favourite track from them, the performance of which was one of the few times when the Top of the Pops studio actually managed to look like an epic place to be. It's Coz I Luv You.

The Jam were huge in Britain in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with a whole bunch of Number Ones, and basically sounded like a very angry collision between the Who and the Kinks. Here's my favourite track by them, That's Entertainment.

As for songs that were huge in Britain and flops in America. The one that always leaps to mind is Vienna by Ultravox which, despite being virtually a cultural phenomenon in Britain in 1981 didn't even make the US Top 100. Not only that but Ultravox had the indignity of seeing the nightmarishly bad Shaddup Your Face by Joe Dolce outsell it in America just as it had somehow done in Britain. For anyone who's not heard it, it can be heard by clicking on this link. A few years back, it was voted the greatest Number Two record of all time, in a national BBC poll.

While I'm at it, I might as well mention James who have today failed by a very narrow squeak to knock Adele off the top of the UK album chart. Pretty much everything they've ever done has been worth a listen and they've had a chart presence in Britain dating back over a quarter of a century. Their track Sit Down was one of the outstanding singles of the 1990s. For anyone who's not heard it, you can find it by clicking this link.

david_b said...

Another Madness devotee signing in, I had 'One Step Beyond' featured on my Facebook page a few Fridays ago.., such a Friday song. 'Our House' was very awesome as well.., shame they didn't get marketed here better. Despite MTV pushing it in the early '80s, Ska never really caught on here, other than college campuses and after-hours FM stations.

Early Blondie is good for me (Sunday Girl's a fav off 'Parallel Lines'..), Debbie's French version's a trip to listen to.

Saw a Carpenters retrospect the other night.., still confused whether I like their cover of 'Ticket to Ride' or not. Very surreal. It's because I'm a Fab Four nut like HB and a few others here.., I can't think of the song without that fun video sequence in 'Help!'.., obviously Richard and Karen couldn't either: their video was shot in the outdoor snow as well.

Wing's '79 tour (captured on the bootleg 'Last Flight') has some amazing live performances, Laurence Juber's jazzy guitar never sounded nicer.

His solo on 'Let It Be' topped anything George ever did. When he talked about 'the moment', Juber said it was totally last-minute...: No one else was stepping up to do it.

Have a blessed Easter, everyone..!!

Martinex1 said...

Steve, Yes on Ultravox and The Jam. There was a great documentary on The Jam on Showtime just recently. Also I don't think Roxy Music or The Stranglers got as much attention over here as they should.

Steve Does Comics said...

Martinex, the Stranglers lack of success in America isn't any surprise but Roxy Music's relatively low profile has always been a mystery to me. Their 1980s stuff always sounded like it was directly aimed at the US market.

ColinBray said...

In little groupings style-wise,a few of my somewhat left-field favourites below. The musical styles are indicated by rather pretentious footnotes:

Teengenerate; The Mummies; Guitar Wolf*

Max Romeo; The Congos; Horace Andy**

Belong; Oval; Aphex Twin***

Sun Ra; Albert Ayler; Pharaoh Sanders****

Cultureshock; Screeching Weasel; MDC*****

Golden Void******

* 90's Garage Punk
** Roots Reggae
*** Ambient
**** Free Jazz
***** Old-School Punk
****** My favourite contemporary band - ace new-school psychedelia from the Bay Area

From middle-teens onwards music overtook comics as a cultural obsession. Selling comics to buy records, that sort of thing...can anyone else nail their personal changing of the guard in a similar way?

Redartz said...

Steve- I share your thoughts regarding "Vienna". Loved Ultravox, a shame they didn't get more attention in the states. Going to check out James per your recommendation, my list of artists to investigate is growing rapidly today!

Colin- I never really had a 'changing of the guard' moment. I was hooked on comics and on music. As it turned out, comics faded out for me (and later faded back in, if that makes any sense), but the music mania never left...

Anonymous said...

I always assumed Madness were far too UK-centric to be famous in the US until I saw the Brat Pack doing the nutty boys dance in the Breakfast Club. I then assumed they must be more famous in the US than I realised.

Steve – totally agree about Slade. Perhaps not underrated as a band so much as songwriters. My forgotten classic would be Far, far away.

Agree about James too. Saw them at Reading way back in 1991. ‘If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor.'

Also agree about Roxy Music, particularly given that most of their hits were covers of people like Dylan, Lennon, Wilson Pickett, The Byrds, Neil Young, etc. you would have thought the door was open, and, as you say, their playlist looks like it was chosen by the marketing department.

We’ve highlighted a lot of Brits under-appreciated in the US, so to redress the balance, can I get a vote in for Warren Zevon? Redartz – in the spirit of your original question, I would recommend his 1989 album ‘Transverse City.’ Considering the band comprised, among others, Dave Gilmour, Jerry Garcia, JD Souther, Jack Cassady from Jefferson Airplane, Miles Davies’ piano player Chick Corea, Heartbreakers Mike Campbell, Howie Epstein & Benmont Tench and Neil Young, it’s probably the biggest (and best) album that no one has ever heard of.

Been on my turntable / Walkman / discman / ipod for over 25 years now.


Steve Does Comics said...

Richard, I spent part of last night watching footage of a James gig at Manchester Arena in 2001. It's one of the best live performances I've ever seen. Even their songs that I'm not normally that fussed about sounded great.

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