Tuesday, September 02, 2008


One of the good things about living in California (after years living elsewhere) is chance meetings with those whose inventions made a small impact on your life or they themselves actually become embodiments of the California myth.

On one sunny Sunday September morning, my wife and I were visiting the Gamble House in Pasadena. As we were approaching this wonderful remnant of old California and Craftsman heritage, a frail, yet sharp and welcoming lady approached us on the sidewalk. We exchanged feelings on what was truly a beautiful unfolding morning and the stunning work of rustic architecture in the midst of verdant landscaping. Being that the home is operated by USC and she and my wife were alumnae, we talked a little about USC trying to balance being a "football school" with their rapidly improving academics. As she walked away into the lush neighborhood she turned around to say, "Remember, I'm the little old lady from Pasadena."

One Sunday in 2007, I was working my usual overtime at the Westlake Village library. An older man approached the reference desk and requested some assistance on finding some information about the correlation between an irregular heartbeat and being an athlete. I found some studies for him and printed them up after finding out the good natured man was not a "computer guy." We got to talking about distance running and the longtime publication Track & Field News. He then proceeded to tell me that he helped designed the shell toe for the Adidas Superstar shoe. While I'm a trusting person, I still had my doubts due to a huckster who told me he was once an accountant for Capitol Records in the '60s and proceeded to narrate a visual image of the opening sequence in the Timothy Leary movie that was never made. Anyway, I told my assistant about the "Adidas guy" and we proceeded to Google him when it was slow at the library. We found out via a blog that he was indeed into sporting goods-actually involved with the invention of the shell toe and was also the source for cricket equipment and information on the West Coast. Recently, reading the book Sneaker Wars by Barbara Smit, I came across a mention of him again. Smit's research did confirm that the man (Chris Severn) and his brothers helped distribute the first (German imported) Adidas shoes on West Coast from their North Hollywood garage in the late '50s. The outstanding book also states that Chris Severn invented the shell toe for the all-leather upper Superstar in 1969. The book proceeds to trace how the Superstar superseded the canvas Converse All-Star on basketball courts with the champion Boston Celtics wearing them along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Interestingly, I recall Magic Johnson and Larry Bird wearing leather Converse from the "Choose your Weapon" ad campaign of early '80s pre-Air Jordan era.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Best of 2002

1.Kent 3-"Spells"
2.Ben Weasel- "Fidatevi"
3.KO and the Knockouts-"S/T"
5.The Possibilities-"Way Out"
6.Autumn Leaves-"The Twilight Hours of"
7.The Cynics-"Living is the Best Revenge"
8.The Beards-"Funtown"
9.Mama Guitar-"In Mama Guitar Style"
10.The Resonars-"Lunar Kit"
11.The Queers-"Pleasant Screams"

Best of 2000

Best "New Releases"
1. Embrooks-Separations...
2. Outrageous Cherry-Out There in the Dark
3. Embrooks-Our New Day
4. Berkeley Squires-Listen...
5. Beachwood Sparks
6. Woggles-Fractured
7. Aislers Set-The Last Match
8. The Mooney Suzuki-People Get Ready
9. High Llamas-Buzzle Bee
10.Teenage Fanclub-Howdy

Best Reissue Collections (heard late '99 through 2000)
1. Searchers-The Pye Anthology (63-67)
2. Gants-Road Runner! The Best of the Gants
3. The Boys Next Door
4. Ides of March-Ideology
5. Phil and the Frantics

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mike in Taiwan

A significant world event may have happened earlier this month with the legendary Mike C. alleged visit to Taiwan on the way back from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. However, this one giant leap for Mike-kind cannot be verified because no photos (as usual & characteristic) were taken. The provenance of the above postcard is questionable.

Best Sounds of 2005

1.Outrageous Cherry- Our Love Will Change The World
2. The Quarter After-s/t
3. Ugly Beats-Bring on the Beats
"Bring on the Beats" is the most impressive contemporary
beat-folk 'n' roll-garage long player I have heard
since "The Wigged Out Sounds Of Freddy and the Four Gone
Conclusions." It plays like one vital single after another!
4. High School Sweethearts-Heels N’ Wheels
5. Clicks-Magic of White
6. Tralala-s/t
7. Chocomates-s/t
8. Volebeats-Like Her
9. Portugal Japan-s/t
10. Barbary Coasters-Honey for Sale
11. Killer’s Kiss-s/t
12. DMBQ-The Essential Sounds from the Far East

Best of 2004

01. Ted Leo/Pharmacists-Shake The Sheets
02. Jonathan Richman-Not So Much To Be Loved as toLove
03. The Divine Comedy-Absent Friends
04. Denise James-It's Not Enough to Love
05. Dear Nora-Mountain Rock
06. The Thermals-Fuckin’ A
07. Brian Wilson-Smile
08. The Heavy Blinkers-The Night and I are Still Young (tie)
08. The Hellbenders-Today We Kill…Tomorrow We Die (tie)
09. The Marked Men-On the Outside
10. Lolas-Something You Oughta Know
11. Embrooks-Yellow Glass Perspections
12. The Indikation-In Terms Of
13. Saturday Looks Good to Me-Every Night
14. Chris Stamey-Travels in the South
15. The Thrills-Let's Bottle Bohemia
16. Mystic Chords of Memory-S/T
17. Knockout Pills - 1+1 = Ate
18. Visqueen-Sunset On Dateland
19. The Sadies - Favourite Colours
20. Palomar- III The Revenge of Palomar

Reissues and Collections
(Rev-ola):Chuck & Mary Perrin-The Last Word
Bergen White-For Women Only
Hard Times-Blew Mind
The Everpresent Fullness-Fine And Dandy: The Complete Recordings
Various Collections:
Sigh Cry Die-29 Garage Rock Tales of Woe and Despair from the Sixties (Arf! Arf!)
A Soldier's Sad Story: Vietnam Through the Eyes of Black America 1966-73
Best Label Sampler: Hey, It's a Teenacide Pajama Party!
Best round-up of b-sides and unreleased tracks: Fastbacks - Truth, Corrosion And Sour Bisquits

Best of 2003

1.Saturday Looks Good to Me-All Your Summer Songs (and they were…the soundtrack of summer 03)
2.High Llamas-Beet, Maize & Corn (Warm welcome back after drifting off course with a couple of albums of vapor pop. Sounds like the missing link recording between the bucolic “Hawaii” and “Cold & Bouncy.”)
3.Aislers Set-How I Learned to Write Backwards-(short,slanting, sweet and sad)
4.Fleshtones-Do You Swing? (Instant party fun factor and “Are you Ready for the Mountain?” shoots this one near the top. The vanguard ‘80s garage revival bands(i.e., Fleshtones, Cynics and Chesterfield Kings) have come back with a vengeance in the last couple of years. Are the Swingin’ Neckbreakers ready to step tothe plate for the ‘90s bands?)
5.Thanes-Downbeat and Folked Up (sounds like Lenny Helsing has been listening to some Freddy Fortune records! Their Sandy Coast cover of “I’m a Fool”gives me the chills, it’s that good and jangly.)
6.Singles-Better Than Before (I have read Sire-era Flamin’ Groovies comparisons, but they sound morebetween a less indie Chisel, a less psych Resonars and less punk Hi-Fives).
7. FM Knives-Useless & Modern
8. Outrageous Cherry-Supernatural Equinox (“If You Want Me” Song of the Year? Yes!)
9.Riverdales-Phase Three (“I Believe in You and Me” is stripped-down, look-up brilliance.)
10.The Apricots-Swingin’! Smilin’!
11.Ted Leo & the Pharmacists-Hearts of Oak (This TL is frequently compared to Thin Lizzy, but notice the similarities in the travelogues of “The Ballad of aSin Eater” and Frank Black’s “Calistan.”)
12.Woggles-Ragged but Right ("Collector Of Broken Hearts," could be the best in their canon.)
13.Fondas-Coming Now (Sounding somewhere between theDetroit Cobras, Ko and the Knockouts, Gore Gore Girls and the early Pretenders.)
14.All Girl Summer Fun Band-2
15.Thermals-More Parts Per Million (Play loud)
16.Cuts-2 over Ten (It’s all so wrong with those Cars-esque vocals, but somehow it sounds almost right)
17.Hidden Cameras-Smell of Our Own (If they cut down on their lengthy lengths of their songs, they could be the new Chills.)
18.Chargers Street Gang-Through the Windshield (Not the breakthrough of their debut, but still a palimpsest of guys trying to make it through the bleak Midwestern muck.)
19.Thrills-So Much for the City (If only they didn’t parrot chunks of songs by the Carpenters and Nancy Sinatra.)
20.Visqueen-King Me

Best reissues and reissue collections:
1.The Sonic Adventures of Zekley & Grady (Retro ZG)
2.The Last-L.A. Explosion (Bomp)
3.V/A-Byrds Won’t Fly Today (Misty Lane)
4.The Spectors-Cockfights & Cakefights 92-96 (Get Hip)
5.Lolas-Silver and Gold (Snap Records-Espana)
6.Deep Six-s/t (Revola)-They could have competed with the We Five if the female vocals of Dean Cannon had a place of their own instead of sharing space with all those guys.
7.Five Americans-The Best of the Five Americans (Sundazed)

Top 10 albums of 2006

1.Jim Noir-Tower of Love-(A great overall disc of melodic wholeness for Beach Boys listeners.)
2.Saturday Looks Good to Me-Sound on Sound-(A singles comp, but I’m gonna count it!)
3. Denise James-Promises-(Another consistently strong folk & roll album from Denise and produced with lavish reverb by Matthew Smith of Outrageous Cherry, the Volebeats)
4.The Now People-The Last Great 20th Century Love Affair-(is finally here!)
5.The Marked Men-Fix My Brain-(An apt punk-pop album for driving through the middle of the city in the middle of summer at midday during the midweek.)
6. Outrageous Cherry-Stay Happy-(Two great “singles," but some filler and a tad bit too much glam seeping in keep this out of the top 5.)
7.The Higher State-‘Round Here-(They accuately state on their website, “We play authentic garage/psych with touches of folk rock - the sound is a blend of west coast byrdsy jangle and harder edged texas punk!!”)
8. Dear Nora-There is No Home-(Disappointing final album, but it still has its moments and it’s still unmistakably Dear Nora.)
9.The Hidden Cameras-Awoo-(This is the year they finally shortened their Chills-like songs—like I wished they did a few years ago.)
10. The Cuts-From Here on Out-(produced by Matthew Smith)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Top Ten of 2007

Now that 2008 is more than half-way over, it's time for best sounds released in 2007. I based my list on just a rough-estimate of rotations.
1. Glenn Mercer-Wheels in Motion
2. The Surfites-Big Pounder
3. Sean O' Hagan/Tim Gane-
La Vie d'Artiste Soundtrack
4. Lloyd & Michael-Just as God Made Us
5. The Griefs-Throwing A Tempo Tantrum
6. The Ugly Beats-Take A Stand With
7. The Resonars-Nonetheless Blue
8. The Queers-Munki Brain
9. The Milkees (Japan)-Lover Soul
10. The Choir Practice-s/t

Honorable Mentions (aka their previous albums were better):
Ted Leo-Living With The Living
Jens Lekman-Night Falls Over Kortedala

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Return to Cypress, CA

Last weekend, our family was in Anaheim for the American Library Association Annual Conference. It was good to feel the ocean breezes once again and return to the first place (Cypress) that I lived in California (back in early 1999). On Saturday night, we it made to an outstanding Korean Tofu restaurant called Kaju. It's located along the thoroughfare of Valley View in Buena Park on the edge of La Palma. Oh yeah, they serve purple rice!

Another highlight was hearing Bich Mihn Nguyen read from her book Stealing Buddha's Dinner. In the words of the Fastbacks, I was able to "meet the author" and receive a signed copy of her book courtesy of Penguin. I mentioned to her that I have not thought about the Purple Cow at Meijer Thrifty Acres since about 1982, until I saw it mentioned in her 2007 memoir of growing up as a Vietnamese-American in GR=Grand Rapids, MI.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Riots-Love After (Sound Camera Records)

One: Aftermath
In this current age besieged by so-called garage bands that lean more in the ponderous era of pre-punk 1975 than seminal 1965, the Riots have broken out to properly realign the currently misplaced garage banner back to the spark of its mid-sixties heyday. They do this by offering a musical authenticity and soulful sincerity not provided by the current bastion of bands prancing over stagnant landfills of burnt-out boogie under the misleading guise of garage. In addition, the Riots radiate a vitality and verve that marks them as true rogues in these current times inundated by sauntering bands who are essentially missing the beat and ignoring the roll inherent in the most striking garage music.

Two: The Sounds of Yesterday & Today
In the Riots sound, the spirit and spunk of such unheralded Michigan forebears as the Unrelated Segments and the Underdogs looms large--along with the repercussions of the Animals, ? and the Mysterians, the Chocolate Watchband, the Yardbirds, the Small Faces and Barry & the Remains. On a contemporary trans-world level, the Riots share some of the same magnificent mentors and buzzing transformers as the Chesterfield Kings, the Greenhornes, the Embrooks and the Hentchmen.

Three: The Sound of Love After
While so many flavor-of-the-week “garage” records have fallen through the bleachers on their own weight after the initial promo push, the Riots have unleashed an album that pulls elusive immediacy together with lasting presence. Freddy Fortune’s distinctive production radiates their reckless ambition while losing none of the band’s musical dimensions. Fortune, working in Grandpa Munster-like fashion down in the all- analogue galore of Sound Camera Studios, achieves this by compounding their essential elements, energy and essences into a formula of unified stereo action. The resulting mid-fi mix is a sonic blast constituted of gashing guitars, rollercoasting keyboards, pow-wow drums and hold-the-fort-down bass--all acting & reacting within corner turning arrangements.

The opening song "Hold on Me" storms out of the speakers like Paul Revere & the Raiders signaling a Union Jack Freakbeat attack. Throwing off spunk, sparks and combo organ dips, the relentless "Stop Knocking" belts it outs between staircases and steaming sewers with command and an indirect nod over to the Shadows of Knight. In the next 2:50 sonic adventure, "Broken Man" climbs to 99th floor of the emotions before reaching a rickety bridge suspended by handclaps and crossed with derailed determination. Once across, the Broken Man screams out a declaration of dependence before continuing into the end-of-wick confusion and the rip of the firecracker drumming.

Next, stuttering guitars, torn out of Love’s "My Little Red Book," introduce and reinforce, "Cold Hearted Woman" before expanding out in all directions and dimensions on the soulful psychedelicized chorus. "Tell Me Tonight" is a musical funny car in which a saxophone props up the frame to expose a pivotal Wurlitzer organ solo before charging down the musical strip still marked by the Royal Pendletons. Swirling sitars, bongo beats and buoyant organ notes (echoing the lost ‘60s band Afterglow) surround "Tomorrow" and take this recording out to new realms before reaching the final destination of this dynamic and vivid debut. Overall, the percolating flourishes of a vintage Rheem Mark VII organ (yeah, the same company known for their hot water heaters) and the impassioned lead vocals topped off by captivating co-ed backing responses conspire to make this album and band stand out in the current congestion of the garage.

Four: Tomorrow
Far removed from the recurring patterns of bands essentially playing seventies arena rock under the protective and now trendy roof of garage, the Riots reclaim and reflect the inextricable link between the mid-sixties and most vital and vibrant garage music. This is only the beginning of more essential and enduring things to come from Sound Camera Records and their unceasing quest to provide, “The Sound of Yesterday, for Today's Tomorrow.”

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Fabchicks-Travel in the Rainbow

I found out about this exciting band today. It's going to be a challenging album to track down. On their website, they list the American Spring records as one of their favorite along with "Here and Now" by the Third Wave.

The Fabchicks-Singing Bird & On the Rainy Day

The Orange Bird

My wife and I were able to make it out to the Pasadena City College swap meet yesterday morning. It was great to have the light traffic and reduced smog of a Sunday morning/holiday weekend.

When I happened upon Disney's Orange Bird record, it brought back memories of going to Disneyworld for the first time in 1976. The graphics on the record are pretty amazing with the Monorail exiting the Contemporary Hotel, a Tiki totem Area and the Orange Bird itself. However, the record was in poor condition and the Orange Bird story and songs by Anita Bryant sucked. Later that night I found out that the Orange Bird has an unsurprisingly big following in Japan complete with pins and t-shirts.

Also bought a still-sealed soundtrack of The Dove for two quarters. John Barry was the selling point. When I first listened to it...I said this sounds a little like the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack before putting the two and two together.

Ramones-Rock 'n' Roll High School on the big screen

A couple of weekends ago, the Chandler Cinema screened this Roger Corman production. I enjoyed viewing it on the expanded screen after seeing it diminishingly on VHS years ago. Also, now knowing more of the individual personalities which comprised the Ramones, it was fun to watch see and hear the film from another vantage point with the Ramones' power, glory, workmanship, tensions, tenderness, humor and excitement projecting off the big screen and from the speakers.

Todd Rundgren, Cheap Trick, Van Halen, Tom Petty were all were considered as the main musical act for the film. Good thing they all didn't work out because I wouldn't be posting this graphic almost 30 years later.

"Sukiyaki" by The Markdowns