Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Champagne

No Slumgullion again this week, due to the holidays. In its place, I'm offering champagne to all my Broken Hearted Toy readers. Figuratively speaking, of course.

Today and tomorrow will be the last days I'll be taking submissions for my annual Big Ideas post, which I'm hoping to offer some time around the start of 2016. If you have great plans for yourself; your band; your theatre or comedy group; your artistic endeavors; anything in the creative realm, and can express that idea in a few sentences, I'll be happy to use it. Or, if you have a positive suggestion for someone in the entertainment world, send that along too. Just contact me through via brokenhearted@gmail.com.

Happy Birthday to the brainy Monkee, Michael Nesmith. The January issue of Shindig (one of the coolest rock mags around) is devoted to the year 1966, and features The Monkees on the cover. Other acts profiled include The Move, Herman's Hermits, Aretha Franklin, The Yardbirds, Love, and Chicago's own The Shadows Of Knight. In fact, I found out about this issue via a post from Shadows Of Knight lead vocalist Jimy Sohns on the Chicago Rock Concerts 1960s and 1970s Facebook page. Mr. Sohns, who is still very active on the music scene, was interviewed for this special edition. Shindig can be found at most Barnes And Noble stores.

Shindig isn't the only magazine singling out specific years from the 1960s. The History Of Rock series features vintage articles, photos, and even ads pulled from the archives of NME and Melody Maker. At $16.99, these magazines cost more than most periodicals, but are well worth picking up at Barnes And Noble, if you're into that era. I'm hoping to post something in the near future about the 1968 and 1969 issues I bought.

I mentioned a while back that Scraps, one of my favorite Chicago bands from the late 1970s and early '80s club scene, has just released Vol. 1, a collection of vintage studio and live recordings, on iTunes. Now comes word that another popular Chicago club act, The New Duncan Imperials, are going the same route by making the 10 songs from their limited edition Live, Rare And Bad cassette available on iTunes for just $5.99.

There's a Go Fund Me campaign underway to help Chicago area band Killer Moon recover from the recent theft of its van, instruments, and gear.

George Fest, a tribute to George Harrison that was recorded and filmed on September 14, 2014 at The Fonda Theater in Los Angeles, will be released as a 2 CD/DVD package and in various other formats toward the end of February. The event was organized by George's son Dhani, and featured performances by Brian Wilson and Al Jardine of The Beach Boys; The Flaming Lips; Black Rebel Motorcycle Club; Ann Wilson from Heart; Ben Harper; Perry Farrell from Jane's Addiction; Norah Jones; "Weird Al" Yankovic; Chase Cohl featuring Brian Bell from Weezer; Ian Astbury from The Cult; Nick Valensi from The Strokes; Britt Daniel from Spoon and others.

There are only a few days left to help Chicago alt-rock band Whitewolfsonicprincess fund its upcoming release The Shadow Of The Marigold via its IndieGoGo campaign.

Dot Dash, the Washington, DC based quartet that crafts melodic, guitar-driven gems inspired by 1980s bands like Translator and Wire Train, has just created a video for the song "Flowers" from its recent Earthquakes and Tidal Waves album. I've favorably reviewed each of the albums Dot Dash has put out, and count them among my favorite acts I've come across while doing this blog.

Vulgar Boatmen, a Chicago-based band that garnered a lot of attention with a pair of albums in the early 1990s, is releasing a 25th Anniversary version of its debut You And Your Sister. The CD will offer remixes of "Decision By The Airport" and "The Street Where You Live," along with previously unreleased bonus tracks. The band has release shows planned for Chicago and Indianapolis.

Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, and David Crosby recently became Ambassadors for the Seva Foundation, a charity organization dedicated to raising awareness that 80% of blindness and visual impairment can be prevented or cured. Other musicians, such The Grateful Dead and Bonnie Raitt, have helped Seva in the past by performing benefit concerts.

Dean Milano is sort of a modern-day Renaissance man in that he's an author, folk singer, humorist, and builder of model cars. He's currently on a Music and Old Toys tour that will find him performing and talking about antique toys at the Woodstock First Saturday event on January 2, The Timbers in Shorewood on January 9, and the Floosmoor Library on January 14.

The Dayna Clay Band will stage a Rock Against Rape event called Unplugged: A Survivor's Story In Scenes and Songs January 7 at the Found Cabaret in Evanston. The $10 admission will benefit RAINN and The Kennedy Forum/Kennedy Forum Illinois.

If someone had asked me to predict which 1970s sitcom actress would be getting rave reviews for her work in a hip hop musical running at the Bank Of America Theatre in downtown Chicago this winter, I wouldn't have come up with Georgia Engel. Even with a hundred guesses. But Engel, who played Ted Baxter's ditsy wife Georgette on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, garnered praise in recent reviews in the Tribune and Sun-Times for her rapping and hoofing in Gotta Dance. Apparently, the musical is based on senior citizens who dance during halftime at NBA games. I know a woman, the mother of a good friend, who does those type of halftime shows for a professional basketball team. I wonder if she'd get a kick out of Gotta Dance.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

For Your New Year's Eve Entertainment

A few ideas for ringing in the new year.

One sure way to avoid greeting 2016 with a crippling hangover is to spend New Year's Eve at the city of Evanston's annual First Night celebration. The family-centric entertainment includes Corky Siegel and Chamber Blues; Second City All-Stars; Howard Levy and Acoustic Express; Poetry Slam veteran Marc Smith; and a Motown Sock Hop with Gerald McClendon.

The very first Chi-Town Rising celebration has assembled an eclectic night of entertainment for its Broadcast Boulevard stage from 7:00 PM to 12:30 AM. The event takes place in the heart of downtown Chicago, with a lineup that includes recent Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductees Chicago; American Authors, of "Best Day Of My Life" fame; The NuBlu Band, featuring Carlise Guy, the daughter of legendary blues man Buddy Guy; the festive Latin band Radio Free Honduras; and blues/soul favorites JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound.

EXPO '76 is staging a 2015 Hits The Highway gig at FitzGerald's Sidebar in Berwyn, with help from The Total Pro Horns. These Chicago music veterans cover everybody from Al Hirt to Looking Glass, and frequently put their own stamp on hit songs. They're the only covers band that offers a mashup of the James Bond Theme and Bobby Hebb's "Sunny." Admission is $25, the show begins at 9:00 PM.

Lucky Boys Confusion will be bringing its commercially successful alt rock sound to Durty Nellie's in Palatine. Tickets are $25, and avid fans can get the $75 VIP package. Doors open at 8:00 PM. Farraday, Top Shelf Lickers, and Steve Knecht are also on the bill.

For more adventurous types who don't mind traveling on New Year's Eve, there's a Popgun! extravaganza going on at The Bassendean Hotel in Australia. Joe Algeri will be there with The Jangle Band (one of the 5,000 groups he's involved with around the globe) along with DM3, High Horse, and The Surf Mist. I'm not familiar with all these acts, but based on Algeri's musical output, I think you can expect some high energy power pop and garage rock music.

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Would You Like A Book or CD/DVD Set To Go With That Live Performance?

The 11th Annual Alex Chilton Birthday Bash is a free event that takes place tonight, starting at 9:00 PM, at The Empty Bottle. Several local performers, as well as a few out-of-town visitors, will be involved in honoring Chilton's music. The lineup features Certain Stars, Cooled Out Babies, Deadly Bungalows, Christopher Elam, Go Time!, Michael Heaton, The Injured Parties, Letterbomb, Allegra Malone, Simeon Peebler, Patrick Potts, Rent Party, Tomorrow The Moon, The Tornaparts, and the Jamie Wagner Band. This Chicago-based annual celebration, as well as the frequent Big Star-related charity events staged by the Wild Honey organization in Los Angeles, underscore how much Chilton's presence is still felt among musicians and fans.

Anyone yearning to get a better understanding of why Chilton remains a such a rock and roll icon should pick up a copy of Holly George-Warren's biography A Man Called Destruction: The Life And Music Of Alex Chilton From Box Tops To Big Star To Backdoor Man. The veteran rock journalist/author affirms Chilton’s amazing talent, and provides a revealing look his childhood, his love of jazz and blues music, the lost years of substance abuse, and his eventual reemergence as a major touring and recording star. Up until his death by a sudden heart attack in 2010, Chilton performed with a new version of Big Star that included fellow founding member Jody Stephens, along with Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies.

Phil Angotti, Tommi Zender, Dann Morr, and Joe Camarillo will be performing John Lennon and Beatles songs, along with Rachel Drew and Bitter Roots tomorrow night at Martyrs on Lincoln Avenue. I saw a Lennon tribute Angotti put together with several guest musicians at The Fest For Beatles Fans in Chicago last August, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable mix of hits and deep album cuts. Bryn Rich will be opening the show tomorrow evening at 8:00 PM.

A George Harrison tribute that was recorded and filmed on September 28, 2014 at The Fonda Theater in Los Angeles will be available toward the end of February. George Fest - The Music of George Harrison was organized by his son Dhani, and featured performances by Brian Wilson and Al Jardine of The Beach Boys; The Flaming Lips; Black Rebel Motorcycle Club; Ann Wilson from Heart; Ben Harper; Brandon Flowers from The Killers; Perry Farrell from Jane's Addiction; Norah Jones; Conan O'Brien; Cold War Kids; Karen Elson; "Weird Al" Yankovic; Chase Cohl featuring Brian Bell from Weezer; Heartless Bastards; Jamestowen Revival; Ian Astbury from The Cult; Nick Valensi from The Strokes; Jonathan Bates; The Black Ryder; Britt Daniel from Spoon; Butch Walker and others. George Fest is already available for pre-order as a 2CD/DVD set; a 2 CD/Blu-Ray set; as a 3 180-gram LP set; and in digital form.

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Friday, December 25, 2015

Posts Of Christmas Past

Happy Holidays!

Here are some thumbnail descriptions of seasonal albums that were fully reviewed on Broken Hearted Toy in previous years. If your family is like mine and is celebrating Christmas after the actual day in order to ensure everyone will be there, then you still have time to use some of these songs to set an appropriately festive mood.

Released in 2002, Hi-Fi Christmas Party was put together by vocalist-bassist Dan Pavelich to help fund research for Von Willibrand’s disease, a bleeding disorder that had stricken his daughter. This easy-going holiday compilation included contributions from several local and national power pop acts. Pavelich led his band The Bradburys through the romantic and highly energetic “I Love It When It Snows!” Other artists involved with this worthy effort included Don Dixon, The Jellybricks, Andrea Perry, The Ted Ansani Trio, Lisa Mychols, and The Spongetones.

On Hi-Fi Christmas Party Volume 2, Pavelich kept the focus on original 1960s-style power pop, although The Elvis Brothers traveled back a little further on their very fun “Rock-A-Billy Christmas.” Lisa Mychols joined The Wondermints on the Leslie Gore-influenced “Lost Winter’s Dream,” and Husky Team, which included Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken, delightfully mixed “Auld Lang Syne” with “Green Onions.” Volume 2 also featured The Grip Weeds, Jeremy, The Bradburys, Rob Paravonian, Joey Molland and The Echo Boys, The Spongetones, and The Brothers Figaro Orchestra.

Hi-Fi Christmas Party Volume Three followed in the amiable tradition of its two predecessors, with another selection of mostly original material. Sketch Middle’s “Very Very, Merry Merry” had an energetic power pop buzz, and The Jigsaw Seen’s “What About Christmas?” was another highlight. The Click Beetles, a Pavelich side project with drummer Ed James; The Yule Logs; The Sun Kings; Jamie and Steve from The Spongetones; and Jim Babjak of The Smithereens also contributed catchy holiday tunes.

In 2007, The Smithereens brought their power pop approach to a mix of originals and cover versions on Christmas With The Smithereens. “Waking Up On Christmas Morning,” which can also be found on the Hi-Fi Christmas Party and Ho Ho Spice collections, is a catchy tune penned by guitarist Jim Babjak. The fast-paced “Christmas Time All Over The World,” written by Babjak, singer Pat DiNizio, drummer Dennis Diken, and original bassist Mike Mesaros, celebrates hugging and kissing under the mistletoe, and compares the holiday to a big rock show.

Yuletunes, an ambitious collection of original Christmas songs created by various power pop artists, came out in 1991 on Shoes’ Black Vinyl label. In addition to the shimmering “This Christmas” by Shoes, the classic collection included Matthew Sweet's reverent “Baby Jesus,” Material Issue's powerful "Merry Christmas Will Do," The Idea's wistful "It's About That Time," and the more introspective "A God Of My Own" by 92 Degrees. Leroy offered the comedic "Santa Stole My Baby," Kelly Ryan captured the heartache of missing someone on the holiday with "It's Not Christmas," and Herb Eimerman celebrated family traditions with "You Gave Me."

Most of the bands on A Kool Kat Kristmas Volume Two took a cheerful approach to the holiday, even when it comes under unusual circumstances. As with Volume One, a portion of the proceeds for each sale went to the Susan Giblin Foundation For Animal Wellness and Welfare. “Christmas Is Coming Again” by The Pencils (who reunited for this effort) and “Snowbirds” by The Honeymoon Stallions celebrated holiday traditions, using lush harmony vocals and ringing guitars. The Connection used playful, old time music on “Poor Boy” while proclaiming that you don’t needs loads of money to enjoy Christmas as long as you’ve got rock and roll. Shake Some Action and The Tor Guides adroitly employed mid-1960s jangle for songs about observing the Yuletide in non-freezing weather and getting cool records as gifts on “Christmas In The Sun” and “Beatles Vinyl,” respectively. Other acts on board included Split Second, Dan Kibler, The Bottle Kids, and The Genuine Fakes.

Back in 1993, Christmas Time with Chris Stamey And Friends had the feel of an old-fashioned variety show. Chris Stamey, a founding member of The dB’s, played host, and kicked things off with the catchy “Christmas Time.” Stamey also teamed up with vocalist-guitarist Wes Lachot for the wistful “Christmas Is The Only Time (I Think Of You)” and joined vocalist-keyboards player Cathy Harrington on the high-charged romance of “You’re What I Want For Christmas.” Big Star checked in with an original rocking hymn called “Jesus Christ,” and founder Alex Chilton offered a positively cozy acoustic version of “The Christmas Song.” Vocalist-guitarist Peter Holsapple of The dB’s served up a simple but beautiful “O Holy Night.” Brent and Kristen Lambert, Syd Straw, The dB's, Don Dixon, and Marshall Crenshaw also took part in the this rock and roll Christmas classic, which has been expanded a few times over the years.

Guitarist/actor/radio show host Little Steven Van Zandt morphed into a crazed Santa for the ambitious 2008 holiday compilation Christmas A Go Go. He threw in some genuine rarities, like a surf rock reinvention of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” delivered by 1950s kids show host, Soupy Sales and actor Joe Pesci's wiseguy treatment of Gene Autry’s “If It Doesn’t Snow On Christmas." The Boss Martians gave Charles Dickens a spin with their high speed rock song, “3 Ghosts (A Modern X-mas Carol),” and The Electric Prunes created a psychedelic and slightly unsettling version of “Jingle Bells.” Other highlights included The Kinks' funny but ultimately goodhearted "Father Christmas" and Keith Richards romping through Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run." Darlene Love's "All Alone On Christmas" (written by Van Zandt and featuring him and The E Street Band), and Tina Sugandh’s “White Christmas,” with its gorgeous vocals and exotic sitars and tablas arrangement, were also standout tracks.

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Punch





Slumgullion is being replaced this week with a steaming and delicious bowl of Christmas punch.

I didn't get an official Christmas card from The Hollies this year, so it's nice to see that they've posted one on their Facebook page.

Now that a Facebook campaign to get Cheap Trick inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has succeeded, other individuals are hoping to do the trick with the very worthy English band Squeeze. Led by the songwriting/singing duo of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, Squeeze arrived via the second wave of British Invasion bands, and their clever and catchy songs have stood the test of time and inspired other artists. Squeeze just filmed a rock video for the title track of its recent and very impressive Cradle To The Grave album.

Better Things do happen. Ray Davies joined his brother and fellow founding Kinks member Dave for a rendition of "You Really Got Me" during the encore at a concert Dave Davies performed on December 18 at the Islington Assembly Hall in London. While there are no guarantees when it comes to these brothers, Ray's surprise guest appearance certainly give fans hope for a reunion.

The 11th Annual Alex Chilton Birthday Bash will be held next Monday, December 28 at The Empty Bottle on Western Avenue. Several local performers are involved, including Certain Stars, Tomorrow The Moon, Go Time!, and The Injured Parties This free event starts at 9:00 PM.

Phil Angotti, Tommi Zender, Dann Morr, and Joe Camarillo will be performing John Lennon and Beatles songs, along with Rachel Drew and Bitter Roots next Tuesday, December 29 at Martyrs on Lincoln Avenue. The music starts at 8:00 PM.

A few years back, international power pop trio The Britannicas crafted the jangling holiday song "Chris Hillman Christmas" in honor of The Byrds' legendary guitarist. They got a pleasant surprise this week when Hillman praised their effort on his Facebook page.

There's still some time to be part of the annual Broken Hearted Toy Big Ideas extravaganza. I'll kick off the new year with a list of people or organizations, stating what I think they will or should accomplish in 2016. If you're a musician, thespian, DJ, author, artist, comedian, any other creative type and would like to send me your goals in a few concise sentences, I would be happy to include them in my Big Ideas post at the beginning of January. Let me know via my gmail account.

An eclectic lineup of bands will be performing on the Broadcast Boulevard stage from 7:00 PM to 12:30 AM when the very first Chi-Town Rising New Year's Eve celebration takes place on December 31 in the heart of downtown Chicago. The performers include recent Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductees Chicago; Americn Authors, of "Best Day Of My Life" fame; The NuBlu Band, featuring Carlise Guy, the daughter of legendary blues man Buddy Guy; the festive Latin band Radio Free Honduras; and blues/soul favorites JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound. Note: The Chi-Town Rising organization recently decided this will NOT be a free event; and the tickets are fairly expensive.

I'll bet he'd autograph your life-sized map of the world. Comedian Steven Wright will be bringing his off-kilter observations and deadpan delivery to the Chicago area next April, with a show on the 8th at the North Shore Center in Skokie and the 9th at The Arcada in St. Charles.

As recently reported in the Chicago Tribune, the city has ditched plans for bringing the critically acclaimed Royal de Luxe and its giant puppets here next June. My wife Pam and I saw this theater company working its magic while we were vacationing in London in 2006. It's disappointing to learn that we won't get a chance to see them in Chicago.

All Things Must Pass: The Rise And Fall Of Tower Records will be shown on Sunday, January 24 and Tuesday, January 26 at the Gene Siskel Center in Chicago. It's director Colin Hanks' documentary on the once successful record store chain, as well as the music industry in general.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Let's Hear It For Old Fezziwig

In the classic novel A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the conniving businessman Mr. Jorkin told Mr. Fezziwig to sell his company to vested interests while he still had the chance. Fezziwig resisted this advice. “I’ll have to be loyal to the old ways,” he explained, “and die out with them if needs must.”

If Fezziwig had been able to see centuries into the future, he would have appreciated that at least his generous spirit never died out. Owners of large, medium, and small businesses still provide the type of merriment and good cheer he gave his employees, including the young Ebenezer Scrooge. Whether they’re held in a banquet hall, club, corner bar, or in the company lunchroom, these gatherings celebrate the season and boost morale.

So here’s a toast to the bosses and coworkers at company parties I’ve attended, from my days at Montgomery Ward, through Arthur Andersen, Borders bookstore, the Illinois Entertainer, the Famous In The Future comedy group, and in more recent years, freelance assignments at ad agencies. Some of these people are still my friends (at least through social media) and I’ve lost contact with several others. But with guidance from the Ghost Of Christmas Past, they all come flowing back right around this time every year.

And now, an appropriate musical selection (from the terrific holiday album Christmas With The Smithereens) that would be perfect for any company party.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Odds And Sods And A Birthday Greeting

Kinks fans who attended this Dave Davies gig got an early Christmas present.

First off, I'd like to wish my wife Pam (that's not her in the photo above) the happiest of birthdays. She's been a guiding light and a driving force (often literally) in my life for several years, and she set up this blog for me. Pam also inspired me to write two novels with a main character that's based on her. Now I just need to get them published. Thanks for all your help and support, Sweeeeeeeetie!

In addition to the good news about Cheap Trick being inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Ray Davies joined his brother and fellow founding Kinks member Dave on "You Really Got Me" during a concert at the Islington Assembly Hall in London a few days ago. As noted by Daniel Kreps in Rolling Stone, it was the first time the feuding siblings performed together in 20 years, and gives fans hope for a Kinks reunion.

The Dave Davies touring band includes guitarist Jonathan Lea and bassist Tom Currier from The Jigsaw Seen, as well as drummer Dennis Diken from The Smithereens. It was fun seeing their posts on Facebook about being part of that London concert. Lea stated, "It's overwhelming right now but I'll tell the story as soon as I get a chance." David Quaife, brother of the late Kinks founding member bassist Pete Quaife, posted, "Still buzzing!!!!!!!!! Posting photos and videos later." David created the Pete Quaife Foundation in his brother's name to help children on dialysis.

Children by the million can scream for Alex Chilton when The 11th Annual Alex Chilton Birthday Bash takes place on Monday, December 28 at The Empty Bottle on Western Avenue. The performers celebrating the late pop/rock and roll genius include Certain Stars, Tomorrow The Moon, Go Time!, and The Injured Parties There is no admission charge for this tribute, which kicks off at 9:00 PM.

Elsewhere on the annual event scene, Australian multi-instrumentalist and power pop ambassador Joe Algeri is offering another seasonal song as a free download on his Bandcamp page. Be advised that "Holiday On Mars" has some rough edges, but it also spotlights Algeri's knack for catchy melodies. The Christmas Crew band includes his wife Erika (singing in French), rhythm guitarist Joe Colombini from The Outryders, and bassist Herb Eimerman and Stefan Johansson from the international trio The Britannicas.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Slumgullion

Cliff Johnson of Off Broadway and Pezband fame will be performing with The Raine tonight at 27 Live in Evanston. I caught this inspired match-up of lead vocalist and band at the Minstrel Palooza event at Durty Nellie's this past September, and I highly recommend it to power pop fans.

Yesterday's post concentrated on Cheap Trick's induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, so today I'll extend congratulations to their fellow honorees Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller, and NWA. I was also rooting for The Smiths and Los Lobos, and certainly Yes was qualified, but it's even harder to fathom how The Cars were passed over. The Boston-based group's self-titled debut was pretty much the starting gate for new wave's dominance back in the late 1970s and 80s, and several of their top hits are still FM radio staples today. Here's hoping they cruise through the induction process next year.

Chicago area fans of Off Broadway, Pezband, and Cheap Trick likely remember Scraps, a southwest side band that arrived around the same time as those acts and pursued a similar catchy, hard-edged sound. I still have their seven-inch "Strike Three/"Gossip Gossip" and 12-inch "Hits" singles, and it was great to see former Scraps lead vocalist Pat Deane mention Scraps Vol. 1, a digital collection of 19 songs from the band's prime years, in a recent Facebook post. In addition to "Strike Three" and "Gossip Gossip," Vol. 1 also includes live version of "Twilight Zone" and "Oh Mary/Can't You See."

Congratulations to author Stephanie Kuehnert on having her novel I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone optioned by some producers who plan to turn it into a movie. Having read Kuehnert's backstage look at a conflicted young woman's emergence as a counter culture rock star battling drug and alcohol abuse as she searches for her birth mother, I'd certainly be interested in seeing a screen adaptation.

The Romantics's new To You single featuring "Coming Back Home" and a rollicking rendition of "Deck The Halls," is now available on iTunes.

Just a reminder about the annual Broken Hearted Toy Big Ideas extravaganza. I'll kick off the new year with a list of people or organizations, stating what I think they will or should accomplish in 2016. I’m asking musicians, theatre groups, radio stations, authors, artists, comedians, and other creative types to describe their plans in a few sentences that I can include in my Big Ideas post at the beginning of January. Let's keep it positive and nonpolitical.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Ooh, It's So Good To See Cheap Trick In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

In the movies, the expression This Time It's Personal precedes an act of vengeance, but it's definitely positive when used in reference to the recently announced Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductees. I'm excited about Cheap Trick getting in not only because I like their music, but also because I kind of grew up with them. I had already heard a lot about this band when I first saw it at a rock club in the Chicago suburb of Burbank.

I can't remember if it was called Harlow's, Pip's, or Haywires at the time. 'Boris,' the power pop aficionado who puts together the Secret Weapon program on Woody Radio, would know since he lived nearby and was a regular at the club throughout its various incarnations. I instantly liked the band's powerful but catchy songs; laughed when Rick Nielsen poked out the ceiling tiles with his guitar; and got a chill when Robin Zander seemed to be crying while he sang "Oh Candy."

I bought Cheap Trick's self-titled debut as soon as it came out in 1977, and was impressed how well their live show translated to vinyl. In Color was even better, and remains a power pop milestone to this day. Some of the band's mid-period efforts lagged a bit, but they made a strong comeback with the more recent Rockford and The Latest.

I saw Cheap Trick perform at the University Of Illinois - Chicago, where I got hit in the face with one of Nielsen's guitar picks (which I still have); and at a New Year's Eve show at B'Ginnings in Schaumburg. I caught them at a vintage theatre in Joliet with a Montgomery Ward coworker who said she couldn't believe Zander looked just as hot in person as on the album covers; and more recently at Taste Of Chicago.

In addition to the concerts I saw, Cheap Trick recreated The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper' Lonely Hears Club Band album in Las Vegas, and performed their own Dream Police backed by a full orchestra in Milwaukee. They were welcomed as the opening act for Kiss at a time when Kiss fans regularly booed opening acts off the stage.

They've influenced countless bands; brought respectability and bravado to the often-maligned power pop genre; and have been ingenious and comedic in marketing their image. They're still out there performing decades after I saw them in that Burbank club, and now they've received a well-earned invitation to The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Congratulations!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Popping Around The Christmas Tree

A few more gift-giving or gift-getting suggestions from the world of entertainment.

Noted rock critic Ken Sharp's limited-edition Play On - Power Pop Heroes Volume 3 will be available through the end of December from the Pop Geek Heaven website. As with Volumes 1 and 2, Sharp conducted extensive interviews with musicians from bands that played an essential role in the development of power pop. The first book featured acts Sharp called progenitors; including The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Hollies, The Zombies, The Who, The Byrds, The Kinks, Big Star, The Raspberries, The Move, and Badfinger. Sharp moved on to pioneers of the genre in his second effort; such as Cheap Trick, Shoes, Pezband, Dwight Twilley, Squeeze, The Ramones, The Records, XTC, and Sweet. The various band members provide commentary on their most influential albums, along with informative and entertaining anecdotes. Volume 3 will cast the spotlight on The Knack, 20/20, Paul Collins Beat, Off Broadway, The Runaways, Marshall Crenshaw, The Plimsouls,  The Romantics, and others.

The Road Is Long . . . The Hollies Story offers a career-spanning look at the British Invasion band from veteran rock and roll author Brian Southhall. Comments from members Graham Nash, Allan Clarke, Tony Hicks, Bernie Calvert, Bobby Elliott, Terry Sylvester, and Eric Haydock, along with various agents and producers, makes this a must-read for Hollies fans.

The Second Disc is an essential website to follow for anyone interested in collecting vintage and classic pop recordings. Those who sign up to receive emails will be alerted to new releases like John Savage's 1966 - The Year The Decade Exploded. As the always knowledgable Second Disc editor Joe Marchese explains, this double CD offers a mix of major hits from The Who, The Supremes, The Lovin' Spoonful, and The Association with rarities from lesser known acts like The Wheel-a-Ways and The Olympics. It's being released by Ace Records as an audio companion to Savage's book of the same name, and includes a 28-page booklet with extensive liner notes. The CD is already available on Amazon; the book is due out in April, 2016.

The Second Disc also recently had a post by Northwestern University graduate and music historian Randy Fairman about the recent digital release the Beach Boys Live In Chicago 1965 album, which features previously unreleased live recordings from the band's performances at the Arie Crown Theater on March 26 and 27 of that year.

There's a whole galaxy of books out there for Doctor Who fans but the more artistically inclined ones might gravitate toward the BBC's Doctor Who Impossible Worlds. This hardcover effort was put together in cooperation with the long-running British TV show's Art Department, and offers an insider's view to how costumes, sets, special effects, and even the TARDIS were created. The book covers sketches, models, and storyboards.

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Friday, December 11, 2015

What's The Big Idea?

The Elvis Brothers back in the day. They've still got big ideas.

It’s time for my open invitation to participate in the annual Broken Hearted Toy Big Ideas extravaganza. I'll kick off the new year with a list of people or organizations, stating what I think they will or should accomplish in 2016. The name "Big Ideas" comes from an Elvis Brothers song on their flawless, Adrian Belew-produced 1985 LP Adventure Time. Per tradition, I’m also asking musicians, theatre groups, radio stations, authors, artists, comedians, and other creative types to describe their plans in a few sentences that I can include in the post. Let's keep it positive and nonpolitical.

By using the following examples, I'm in no way excluding those involved from sending in their own descriptions. Christopher David of the Chicago-based band Magatha Trysty is releasing a solo debut titled The Houdini Tapes, and also plans to release the next Magatha Trysty album soon. Dana Jones is an artist who just opened her own studio near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Mary-Arrchie Theatre will wrap up its final season (after 30 years of giving Chicago cutting-edge productions) with what could be the best Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival ever. The alt rock band Whitewolfsonicprincess will release its next album The Shadow Of The Marigold, and probably continue its eclectic series of performance events at Red Line Tap. And even though The Elvis Brothers have gone their separate ways, they're all still active in the music biz.

So give some thought to the amazing success that could result from the perfect combination of luck and your initiative, and send it to the Broken Hearted Toy gmail address within the next few weeks. Or if you have my email address, feel free to use that.

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thursday Slumgullion

Slumgullion comes a day early this week due to a few Friday night events I want to mention before they actually take place.

Also, keep in mind the Cornerstones of Rock: American Garage TV special featuring The Ides Of March, The Buckinghams, The Cryan Shames, The New Colony Six, The Shadows of Knight, The McCoys, and The American Breed airs at 7:30 PM and 9:30 PM on WTTW Channel 11 in Chicago tonight. WGN air personality Wendy Snyder is the host. It's part of a pledge night, so be prepared for frequent interruptions. Still, if you've got some extra dough, supporting public television is a great idea.

Professor Moptop, whose detailed and entertaining behind-the-scene reports on Fab Four songs air on WXRT's Breakfast With The Beatles show, will make a rare live appearance at FitzGerald's in Berwyn tomorrow night. The WhatFour tribute band (Phil Angotti, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough, and Matthew Warren) will be performing the UK version of Rubber Soul in its entirety, along with lots of other Beatles songs.

On Saturday night, Phil Angotti will be at Schubas on Chicago's north side playing an acoustic set of Kinks songs as part of A Very Clash Christmas triple bill with the London Calling tribute band, and Buzzcocks tribute band The Fiction Romantics.

Razorhouse, The Handcuffs, and I Lost Control will be sharing the stage tomorrow night at Martyrs' on Lincoln Avenue.

Radio host and E Street Band member Little Steven Van Zandt is selling a limited amount of tickets for Bruce Springsteen's The River Tour, with all proceeds going to the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. A number of options are being offered, including special ticket packages. The tour brings Springsteen and The E Street Band to the United Center in Chicago on January 19, with additional concerts in Pittsburgh; New York; Washington, DC; Boston; Atlanta; and other cities.

The 4th Annual Chicago Art Girls Holiday Pop Up Shop will take place this Saturday and Sunday at the Alexander Graham Bell Elementary School at 3730 N. Oakley in Chicago. The event is sponsored by the Dizzy Cow store, and will feature over 40 local artists.

Mary-Arrchie is celebrating the closing of Ibsen's Ghosts next Saturday, December 19 with a karaoke fundraiser. Its next production, David Mamet's American Buffalo, runs from January 28 to March 6. The cutting-edge storefront theatre is calling it quits after this current season, so it's a good idea to drop by as often as you can.

The Romantics's new To You single, featuring "Coming Back Home" and a rollicking rendition of "Deck The Halls," is now available on iTunes.

Lots of Chicago area bands will be celebrating the season via brief and hopefully clever musical snippets when the 24th Annual Local Anesthetic Holiday Special airs this Sunday night on WXRT. The show will air again on the following Sunday. And a tip of the Santa hat to Local Anesthetic host Richard Milne for decades of supporting the Chicago music scene.

Cliff Johnson of Off Broadway and Pezband fame will be performing with The Raine next Friday, December 18 at 27 Live in Evanston.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Little Wendy's Underground Chicago Garage

Chicago PBS station WTTW Channel 11 could sound a lot like Little Steven Van Zandt's syndicated radio show Underground Garage tomorrow night when the Cornerstones Of Rock: American Garage TV special casts a spotlight on The Ides Of March, The Buckinghams, The Cryan Shames, The New Colony Six, The Shadows of Knight, The McCoys, and The American Breed. All of these groups, with the exception of the Indiana-based McCoys, came from Chicago's vibrant music scene in the mid-1960s, and I'm willing to bet Van Zandt has played each of them on his show at some point.

WGN radio personality Wendy Snyder will host the special, and Ides Of March will serve as the the house band behind original members of the other groups. The performers include Jim Peterik of The Ides Of March (the first rocker I ever interviewed back when I was a five-year old music critic at The Chicago Illini); Carl Giammarese, Nick Fortuna, and Dennis Tufano of The Buckinghams; Tom Doody, Jim Fairs, and J.C. "Hooke" Pilster from The Cryan Shames; Bruce Mattey and Ray Graffia from The New Colony Six; Jimy Sohns from The Shadows Of Knight; Rick Derringer from The McCoys; and Gary Loizzo, Al Ciner, Chuck Colbert, Jr., and Lee Graziano from The American Breed.

Joe Aliotta from Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah, will also be on hand, and take part in a massive performance by all the groups of "Lake Shore Drive" as a tribute to the late Mitch Aliota. The bands will also perform "Get It On," originally done by the band Chase. Local promoter Ron Onesti, who has booked countless hit bands from the 1960s at The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, will also appear on the show. Cornerstones Of Rock: American Garage should be a treat for those who remember when these bands topped the charts in the days when WLS and WCFL ruled rock and roll radio in Chicago. It airs at at 7:30 PM tomorrow night.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

What I Like About The Romantics' New Single





The Romantics make their Christmas music debut in rollicking fashion with a brief but joyous rendition of "Deck The Halls" that's now available as part of the To You single on iTunes. It's being paired with "Coming Back Home," which I believe is their first new original in some time. Both songs evoke the early days of The Romantics, when the band fueled 1960s influences into harder-edged but relentlessly catchy arrangements. Original members vocalist-guitarist Wally Palmar, guitarist-vocalist Mike Skill, and bassist-vocalist Rich Cole, along with drummer Brad Elvis, who joined in 2004, are still very active on the concert scene.

"Deck The Halls" was probably meant to be a party song right from its earliest days in the 1870s, but The Romantics spike the punch with revved-up guitars, pounding drums, and some boisterous "fa la la la la" singing. Anyone who actually decorated for the holidays at this pace would leave the house in a shambles. Still, this version captures the celebratory holiday spirit and is a of fun.

The energetic "Coming Back Home" is about a guy in a rush to return to his loved one, so it could be seen as a holiday song as well. The harmonica playing and infectious beat recall The Beatles, but The Romantics add a bit more of a guitar-driven, hard rock feel. This song will no doubt remind long-time fans of "What I Like About You," and it would have fit in perfectly on that impressive 1979 self-titled debut from The Romantics.

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Saturday, December 5, 2015

Slumgullion

On Friday, December 11, there will be a triple bill of Razorhouse, The Handcuffs, and I Lost Control at Martyrs'. Earlier in the week, Rolling Stones fans can drop by the same club on Wednesday to see the tribute musicians collective Great Moments In Vinyl presents Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers.

EXPOse yourself to fun. One of the coolest things you can do in my sleepy town of Palatine is watch EXPO '76 perform at Mac's On Slade. The eclectic covers band will be doing just that tonight. Mac's is a small joint and EXPO '76 has a large following, so you can see why it would be wise to get there early. Mac's also serves food.

Chicago-based indie rock band Vaudevileins has a new EP Transmission available for pre-order on the its Bandcamp page. That's also where you can stream the hard-hitting but melodic first single "Chasing Time" and download it for a buck. The release party, with Veseria, Corral, and Light Aircraft On Fire, was last night at Quenchers Saloon.

An article by Garrett White on Rolling Stone's website details how Graham Nash coordinated with Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Museum curator Karen Herman in setting up the new Touching The Flame exhibit featuring some of his favorite music artifacts. White describes Nash beaming "like a kid in a candy store" while discussing the exhibit at a press preview. I have to start getting invited to these kinds of things.

Skimption, an unconventional exhibition featuring artists Diana Gabriel, Emily Hermant, Luis Sahagun, Catherine Schwalbe, and Rusty Shackleford, opened last night at the Ukrainian Institute Of Modern Art and runs through January 31. Artist/art critic Robin Dluzen is serving as curator. The Ukrainian Institute Of Modern Art is located at 2320 W. Chicago Avenue.

WXRT's ON XRT Volume 17 became available at Target stores in the Chicago area yesterday. As with past volumes, all the tracks were recorded at local venues and aired at some point on the progressive rock station. This year's edition is supported by Blue Cross Blue Shield and proceeds will benefit The City Project and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association. Only a limited number of ON XRT Volume 17 are being sold, and they're sure to go quickly.

While at Target, I noticed that you can now buy all three Austin Powers movies in a single DVD set. That way, it will be easier to see just how much the series deteriorated after the first effort.

As noted here Thursday, The Smithereens plan to release 30th Anniversary celebration of their power pop masterpiece Especially For You in January. Titled ESP3CIALLY F0R YOU, this new edition will have 47 tracks and will be available as a double CD or digital download. The group also plans to unveil a full album of new originals next Halloween.

Congratulations to Mary-Arrchie Theatre's Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky, who will receive the Seventh Annual Corona Award from Eclipse Theater on December 15 at Athenaeum Mainstage Theatre. The award is being given in recognition of his extensive involvement in the local theatre scene. Cotovsky will perform in Mary-Arrchie's production of David Mamet's American Buffalo, along with Rudy Galvan and Stephen Walker when it begins its run on January 28.

Whitewolfsonicprincess and 10 other musical acts will be making merry at a Toys For Tots benefit tonight at Red Line Tap on Chicago's north side. The lineup includes The Telepaths; Winston Gerbil; Ten Gallon Hats/5 Gallon Heads; The Myths Of Suburbia; Lady Stardust; The Revellettes go-go dancers; The Dark Room Men; Jeff Brown and The New Black; and The Rut. Meanwhile, Whitewolfsonicprinces is looking to raise money for its third release The Shadow Of The Marigold via an IndieGoGo campaign.

Milwaukee's power pop masters Trolley have a record release party for their new effort Caught In The Darkness tonight at Linneman's River West Inn in Milwaukee.

The Kooks' Hello, What's Your Name and Cold Play's A Head Full Of Dreams were among the new albums released today.

There's still time for Chicago area music acts to record a holiday greeting that could be used on the 24th Annual Local Anesthetic Holiday Special on WXRT. Host Richard Milne is very specific about what he's looking for, so be sure to read the rules before sending something to him. I've listened to this special for a number of years and they're always a lot of fun.

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Especially Turns 30

There was a post on The Smithereens Facebook page today promoting the January release of ESP3CIALLY F0R You, a 30th Anniversary celebration of the album that gave the world  classic power pop songs like “Blood And Roses,” “Behind The Wall Of Sleep,” and “Strangers When We Meet.” The 47 tracks will be avaialble as a two-CD set or as a download, and will include demos, acoustic versions, and live performances.

It seems odd that The Smithereens wouldn’t have released this in time for the holiday, when it surely would have wound up on every power pop fan’s wishlist. In the meantime, fans will have to settle for having visions of this collection dance in their heads. They can also dream of a 2016 tour when The Smithereens will perform the original Especially For You in its entirety, plus a brand new album of originals tunes that’s coming out next Halloween.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Incoming!

Some worthy events coming up in the next few days.

Singer-guitarist Phil Angotti, who is well known in Chicago for the tribute shows he does around town, will be joining singer-songwriter Rachel Drew from the Rachel Drew And the Bitter Roots band for an evening of cover tunes and originals tomorrow night, December 3 at the Wishbone restaurant on Lincoln Avenue. They'll be performing music by The Beatles, Everly Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel, Mamas and Papas, and Buddy Holly. Angotti's most recent CDs find him taking a more introspective approach to rock while maintaining his knack for strong melodies. Drew is currently working on her first album, with help from Steve Dawson of Dolly Varden; John Mead; Alton Smith; and Gerald Dowd. The show starts tomorrow night at starting at 7:00 PM.

Vaudevileins, a Chicago-based indie rock band that formed in 2010, has a new EP Transmission  available for pre-order on its Bandcamp page. That's also where you can stream the hard-hitting but melodic first single "Chasing Time" and download it for a buck. A Transmission release party is coming this up Friday, November 4 at Quenchers Saloon in Chicago. The $8 admission also includes performances by Veseria, Corral, and Light Aircraft On Fire. Doors open at 9:00 PM.

The opening reception for the unconventional exhibition Skimption will be held at the Ukrainian Institute Of Modern Art this Friday, December 4 at 6:00 PM. Artist/art critic (and my editor when I wrote for Chicago Art Machine) Robin Dluzen will be the curator. Skimption, which features artists Diana Gabriel, Emily Hermant, Luis Sahagun, Catherine Schwalbe, and Rusty Shackleford, runs through January 31. The Ukrainian Institute Of Modern Art is located at 2320 W. Chicago Avenue.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Party Lights - I See The Lights

I See The Lights is the full-length debut from Party Lights, following a few singles and a self-titled EP in 2012. The Brooklyn-based quartet makes good on its sworn allegiance to The Go-Gos via singer-guitarist Anna Blumenthal's effervescent songs and the vocal interplay she creates with bassist-keyboards player Joan Chew. Guitarist Elliott Klein and Dave Smilow also play prominent roles in the band's successful power pop approach.

The catchy "Breakup #4, a carryover from the EP, is a prime example of how much Party Lights learned from the way The Go-Go's mix new wave with the 1960s girl group sound. "You Can't Tell Your Heart What To Do" follows in that same vein, with Chew's bass playing adding to the song's appeal. Most of these guitar-driven songs deal with relationships, from the sexy "Desire Always Takes A Toll" to the unrequited love of "A Boy Like You."

Although Blumenthal doesn't mention singer-songwriter Palmyra Delran as an influence, she exhibits a similar lack of sympathy for friends who stay in abusive relationships or wallow in self pity. On "He's Gonna Hurt You," she decides, "I'm gonna turn my back/Let you make your own mistakes," while on "Crybaby," she warns, "You can't cry your eyes out on me." That may sound harsh, but like all the songs on I See The Lights, it's set to an irresistible arrangement.

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