Saturday, January 23, 2021

Saturday Slumgullion

Happy Birthday to Cheap Trick vocalist Robin Zander. I first saw him in person at the Harlow’s lounge on Chicago’s southwest side back in the 1970s, when he was belting out irresistible classics like “Oh, Candy” while Rick Nielsen poked out ceiling tiles with a guitar. The band has kept rocking over the decades and will release a new single titled “Light Up The Fire” next Thursday. It’s available to pre-order on streaming services.

The Chicago-based indie rock label Big Blast Records has just released a various artists compilation titled The Big Singles Vol. 1 on its Bandcamp page. It features tracks by The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club; The Glad Machine; Golden Richards; Mark Watson Band; The Peeves; and Phil Angotti. These names will be familiar to anyone who’s been at the Power Pop Shoppe Showcases WNUR air personality Kirk Fox books on the local club scene, or has listened to his Power Pop Shoppe radio program. Though centered around the power pop genre, there’s a good variety of approaches on this six-song album. I’m hoping to post a full review at some point.

Another addition to my in box that deserves a full review is Rotation, a collection of clever, catchy, Fountains Of Wayne style power pop tunes by the Washington, D.C. band The Airport 77s. The opening track, “Christine’s Coming Over” immediately signals these guys are going to be fun. I also hope to get something posted soon on Complete Recordings (2017 – 2020) by Heatwaves. Lead vocalist Ana Beltran swings easily from the early 1960s girl group sound of “You’ll Be Crying” to the revved-up punk rock of “Vampire.”

Chicago radio station WXRT presented its Annual Listener Poll in a virtual format this past Thursday night; raising $448 in donations for the Greater Chicago Food Depository in the process. The Listener Poll’s sponsor Tito’s Handmade Vodka had previously donated $10,000 as part of the voting process. The event opened with local favorites Tributosaurus performing a medley of top songs from 2020.

Long-time air personalities Lin Brehmer, Marty Lennartz, Terri Hemmert, Johnny Mars, Richard Milne, Ryan Arnold, Emma Mac, and Frank E. Lee presented the awards. For those of us who’ve listened to these people for years, it was great to see them, if only in video form. Brehmer, serving as MC and vodka drinker, noted that more people listened to WXRT in 2020 than in any previous year.

As for the winners, it was Black Pumas as Top Breakout Artist; Irish Times in Brookfield as Top Outdoor Patio; “How Lucky” by Kurt Vile and John Prine as Top Song; Netflix as Top Streaming Platform; Schitt’s Creek as Top TV show; Drinking (that’s actual drinking, not a TV show or song) as Top COVID-19 Pastime; Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ Wildflowers and All The Rest as Top Album; and Bob Marley and The Wailers at The Quiet Knight in 1975 as Top Vintage Concert Broadcast. The entire XRT Annual Listener Poll can be viewed on WXRT’s Facebook page.

The National Museum of African American Music officially opens in Nashville, TN on January 30. NMAAM visitors will find exhibits honoring B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, and numerous other African American performers across multiple genres. Admission is currently limited due to COVID-19, but hopefully, 2021 will see a full-scale return to museums. The National Museum of African American Music recently announced its partnership with Sony Music Group to create the Sony Music Scholars Black Music Certification and Scholarship Program.

The Kinks’ official Instagram and Facebook sites are now offering more details after an extremely brief video teaser posted earlier this week regarding The Moneygoround film. Based on an original story by Ray Davies, and co-written by Davies and Paul Sirett, this One Man Show For One Night Only will be broadcast on The Kinks YouTube Channel at 8:00 pm GMT on January 29. A recent Facebook post notes the presentation was shot intimately and also features archive footage.

Ever since the early 1980s, I’ve created scrapbooks with articles, ads, and photos I particularly liked from various publications. Most of them pertain to rock and roll, but there are also entries related to TV, movies, theatre, and sports. One that comes to mind is a reprint of a 1957 photo of Ernie Banks from the Chicago Cubs and Hank Aaron from the Milwaukee Braves standing side by side at Wrigley Field. Aaron recently passed away and Banks left us a while ago. I like to think these two all-stars and incredible gentlemen are enjoying each other’s company again. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021


The Annual 93XRT Listener Poll will go the webcast route tomorrow night (January 21), starting at 6:00 pm CST. Just as they’ve done at numerous live celebrations over the years, long-time air personalities Lin Brehmer, Marty Lennartz, Terri Hemmert, Richard Milne, Ryan Arnold, and Frank E. Lee will present awards in various music categories. We’ll also learn listeners’ choices for the best TV programs, movies, and other forms of entertainment in 2020.

Tributosaurus, one of Chicago’s best-loved and most versatile tribute bands, will perform throughout the event. I’ve been lucky to get tickets to previous 93XRT Listener Polls (they were free but you had to act fast), and I’m thinking even a virtual version will still be fun. As XRT noted on Facebook, Tito’s Handmade Vodka donated $10,000 ($1 for ever vote cast) to the Greater Chicago Food Depository as part of the voting process.

The National Museum of African American Music officially opens in Nashville, TN on January 30, but a special opening ceremony was shown live on Facebook this past Monday to coincide with Martin Luther King’s Birthday. The event was featured on CBS This Morning as well as in the New York Times. In the article, writer Margaret Renkl noted The NMAAM “is a 56,000-square-foot tribute to the makers of the first music that was truly American.”

NMAAM visitors will find exhibits honoring B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, and numerous other African American performers across multiple genres. Admission is currently limited due to COVID-19, but hopefully, 2021 will see a full-scale return to museums. The National Museum of African American Music recently announced its partnership with Sony Music Group to create the Sony Music Scholars Black Music Certification and Scholarship Program.

Be sure to bring some champagne that tastes just like cherry cola. The Kinks’ official Instagram and Facebook sites offered an extremely brief video teaser today stating a new film titled The Moneygoround will be coming “very soon to a screen near you.” The band recently released a 50th Anniversary edition of its Lola Vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround album, which featured the hit single “Lola.” The Moneygoround flick is said to have an original story written by Ray Davies. 

Friday, January 15, 2021


                                                            Inside the Metro rock club.

Countless rock fans in Chicago have fond memories of seeing concerts at Metro on Clark Street, which is why the venue’s new Hindsight 2020 yearbook is such a great idea. The website says, “See the many faces and spaces you’ve gotten to know at Metro and smartbar over the years. Funds go directly to the venue, to keep the lights on until we can safely reopen.” The softcover version is $30, and you can skip the $5 shipping fee if you pick up your copy in person. There’s also a $75 limited-edition hardcover edition that’s autographed by Chicago photographer Derrick Smith and Metro’s founder Joe Shanahan.

Juliana Hatfield has a solo acoustic livestream performance of her 1998 album Bed coming up at Q Division Studios on January 23. The show kicks off at 4:00 pm EST, and like her livestream show last month, there will be no specific ticket price. Donations are welcome and can be made in advance at Hatfield’s official website. Fans will be able to talk with Hatfield live before, during and after the event.

WXRT’s Annual Listener Poll will go the webcast route next Thursday, January 21, starting at 6:00 pm CST. Just as they’ve done at numerous live celebrations over the years, long-time air personalities Lin Brehmer, Marty Lennartz, Terri Hemmert, Richard Milne, Ryan Arnold, and Frank E. Lee will present the awards. Tributosaurus, one of Chicago’s best-loved and versatile tribute bands, will perform throughout the event. As XRT noted on Facebook, Tito’s Handmade Vodka donated $10,000 ($1 for ever vote cast) to the Greater Chicago Food Depository as part of the voting process.

Barry Gibb’s new album Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers’ Songbook, which came out today, features him performing some of The Bee Gees’ biggest hits with help from an impressive list of guest stars. Sheryl Crow joins Gibb on “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart,” and other guests include Gillian Welch and David Rawlings; Dolly Parton; Olivia Newton-John; Tommy Emmanuel and Little Big Town; Allison Krauss; and Brandi Carlisle.

Vince Melouney, who along with the Gibb brothers was an original member of The Bee Gees, plays guitar on a new version of the band’s “Ring My Bell” by Strangers In A Strange Land.  Vocalist Paul Kopf and bassist/keyboards player/guitarist Alec Palao are the core of Strangers In A Strange Land, but they’re ably assisted by guitarist Jonathan Lea from The Jigsaw Seen and drummer Clem Burke from Blondie. The new “Ring My Bell” was produced by the legendary Shel Talmy.

The January issue of the Illinois Entertainer, featuring Tom Lanham’s cover story on George Thorogood, is available on the long-time free publication’s website. This edition also has Lanham’s interview with Exene Cervenka from X and Jeff Elbel’s feature on alt rock singer songwriter Beki Hemingway. You’ll also find reviews of Billie Joe Armstrong’s new covers album No Fun Mondays, The 50th Anniversary edition of The Kinks’ Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneyground Part One, and Pink Floyd’s Delicate Sound Of Thunder Blu-ray Three-LP Vinyl set. 

The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame will reopen to the public this coming Monday, January 18, according to the museum’s official website. The statement promises proven health and safety precautions will be in place, and tickets must be purchased in advance to ensure social distancing. The RRHOF also has a few more artist t-shirts for sale, judging from some recent posts on Facebook and Instagram. One of them is a Jimi Hendrix 1969 Live On Stage t-shirt that’s very vibrant and cool. Still no t-shirt for The Hollies, who were inducted in 2010. Maybe if all the Hollies-related Instagram accounts banded together, they could persuade The RRHOF to do the right thing.

The 2020 Bash Batch. International Pop Overthrow founder David Bash has released his traditional listings of favorite releases from the previous year. As usual, he’s broken things out in different categories, with The Corner Laughers snagging first place for Top 125 Albums. I know The Corner Laughers from their terrific song “Sophie On The Streets Of Stockholm,” as well as their irresistible cover of “Everything Will Work Fine” from the Garden Of Earthly Delights - An XTC Collection various artists compilation. That album, by the way, won the Top Tribute Discs - Various Artists category. It was nice to see Chicago favorite Phil Angotti’s The Best Of Phil Angotti - Top Tunes and Real Grooves come in at number 2 on the Top Compilations - Single Artist honors. All the lists can be viewed on the official International Pop Overthrow website. 

The Hey Nonny music venue in Arlington Heights is still in hibernation, but opened its doors last Thursday and Friday so those of us who’ve become members of the Nonny Club could pick up our t-shirts. Designed by musician/artist Jon Langford, the shirt is one of the perks of signing up. Hey Nonny plans to reopen on March 10, and has already lined up a number of concert events well worth checking out.

Speaking of Jon Langford, I spoke with him several years ago after he performed his solo debut Skull Orchard at WXRT DJ Lin Brehmer’s Birthday Bash at the Arlington Park Racetrack. Just a few words to say I enjoyed the show. A few years later, I saw Langford at a pop-up holiday event at the Bloodshot Records indie label’s headquarters on Chicago’s north side. Without thinking, I said hello like we were long-time friends. I’m sure he had no idea who I was, but he cheerfully said hello back. Nice chap.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

New Music From The Handcuffs And Peter Holsapple

It’s been a while since we’ve heard a new recording from The Handcuffs, but the Chicago-based indie rock band has just released a catchy single titled “Love Me While You Can” on the Color Red record label. The song’s available on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, and Apple Music, and will be on The Handcuffs’ fourth album Burn The Rails, which is due out this spring. There’s an intriguing, picturesque feel to the lyrics and an energetic arrangement that adroitly blends guitars and piano. Lead vocalist Chloe F. Orwell, the band’s co-founder with drummer Brad Elvis, taps into the glam rock allure of previous Handcuffs tracks like “Vinyl Isabella” and “Come On Venus.” I’m pretty sure I’ve heard them perform “Love Me While You Can” live so it’s nice to be able to add it to a playlist now.

Peter Holsapple reunited with former bandmate Chris Stamey for the splendid acoustic album Our Back Pages, and he recently released a new album with another former member of The dB’s, drummer Will Rigby. Holsapple and Rigby are half of the Peter Holsapple Combo, along with bassist-vocalist Glenn Jones and piano player Josh Kantor. Amplifier - Live At The Q Division Studios features a live performance of the vintage dB’s gem “Amplifier,” along with eight other songs. The blues/funk approach throughout the album may surprise some long-time fans, but Holsapple’s guitar sizzles, and there’s no denying the good-time party vibe. Amplifier - Live At The Q Division is available to download on Peter Holsapple’s Bandcamp page.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Saturday Slumgullion

Eddie Munoz, the guitarist and a founding members of the legendary power pop band The Plimsouls, released a sizzling cover of John Lennon’s “Power To The People” via Bandcamp yesterday. Amy Gore of Gore Gore Girls was recruited for guitar and lead vocals, along with Pete Donnelly of The Figgs and NRBQ on bass and lead vocals; Valerie Keith on and violin and cello; Rick West on drums; and veteran producer/musician Chris “Frenchie” Smith on guitar and vocals. A remotely filmed and recorded video of the nearly six-minute rendition features various People singing along and can be viewed on The Plimsouls Facebook page.

Those of us who are long-time WXRT listeners in Chicago were saddened to learn the radio station’s original owner Dan Lee has passed away. An obituary written by Daniel L. Dorfman in this past Thursday’s Chicago Tribune included touching comments from Lee’s daughter Sarna Goldenberg, XRT air personality Lin Brehmer, and former XRT program director Norm Winer. Lee was instrumental in creating a format where DJs came across as friends rather than smarmy stereotypes and the music selection was always adventurous. As Dorfman noted, Lee’s family hopes to have a public celebration at some point in the future.

The Hey Nonny music venue in Arlington Heights plans to reopen on March 10, and has already lined up a number of events well worth checking out. Here are some examples: Michael McDermott has four shows coming up March 12 and 13; Joanna Connor has two shows on March 18; The Bad Examples have four shows on March 25 and 26;  The Kinsey Report has two shows on April 1; The Waco Brothers have two shows on April 3; and Jason Narducy and Dag Juhlin have two Pete Townshend tribute shows coming up on May 19.

When he cuts off his ear, it’s almost like it flies right past you. The Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit Chicago is set to open in February at the Germania Club on the city’s north side. Judging from the website as well as a Chicago Tribune article by Steve Johnson, it could be one of the best non-Zoom events coming this year. Organizers have social distancing, along with numerous other health and safety measures in place, so visitors can be surrounded by the world famous artist’s best works for a little over a half hour. In addition to all those visuals, there’s a soundtrack crafted by Italian composer Luca Longobardi. Basic tickets (there’s a more expensive VIP option) run for $39 for adults.

Like live music venues, restaurants, newspapers, and retail stores, The Museum of Broadcast Communications was hit hard last year and is asking for donations to help it continue operating. The museum is temporarily closed due to COVID-19, but has a long history of presenting fascinating exhibits and events, and hopefully will return soon. One of the most promising developments in recent years was that some of its exhibits came directly from the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland. 

For those who might have missed it amidst the holiday hoopla, here’s a reminder that director Peter Jackson recently shared a sneak peek at his upcoming The Beatles Get Back documentary. The montage of previously unreleased footage provides an insider’s view of the band’s creative process as well as some cheeky humor.

Chicago singer-songwriter Phil Angotti’s new album Still Life is now available on his Bandcamp page. Like his 2017 Such Stories, it’s an introspective, acoustic effort that’s reminiscent at times of Simon and Garfunkel. This time out, Angotti is focused on the troubling events of 2020.

The Consequence Of Sound website is now selling a cool-looking Protect Live Music long-sleeved shirt designed by Steve Fiche. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the National Independent Venue Association Emergency Relief Fund. The shirt comes in black, red, or gold. I picked the black one myself.

Manchester Music Then And Now: Music Worth Fighting For is a new documentary celebrating the past few decades of the English city’s long history of bringing the world top-notch rock bands. Featured acts include Happy Mondays; New Order; Joy Division, and Denise Johnson. The 35-minute film can be viewed on the Visit Manchester website. 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Four Auld Lang Syne Songs, My Dear

There was a time when just about everybody thought of Guy Lombardo when it came to “Auld Lang Syne” since he and his Royal Canadians played it every New Year’s Eve for years on radio and TV.  His version is available on YouTube and sounds particularly melancholy.

“Auld Lang Syne” continues to be covered by various musicians. The version by The Smithereens on their marvelous Christmas With The Smithereens album opens with the band harmonizing like a barbershop quartet before the guitars and drums kick in. From there, it morphs into a pulsating surf rock tune that’s predominantly instrumental.

Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken also tackled the song as part of group called Husky Team. This inspired instrumental take, from the Hi-Fi Christmas Party Volume 2 CD, mixes “Auld Lang Syne” with the Booker T & The MG’s 1960s hit “Green Onions.”

Perhaps the most relevant version of “Auld Lang Syne” for 2020 comes from a New Jersey band called The Cucumbers. I couldn’t find a link for it, but the song is on the various artists Ho Ho Ho Spice CD, if you have a copy of that. The guitar-driven, slightly Celtic, power pop arrangement and Deena Shoshkes’s spirited vocals cast out any trace of despair and offer instead an exhilarating sense of hope. The quest is underway and better times will soon be here.

From The Stoneage To 2021

Congratulations to the Hoodoo Gurus, who will mark 40 years of garage rock/power pop expertise tomorrow. Lots of us have new year’s resolutions, but these Australian mates decided they would form a band in 1981 and made good on that vow on the very first day of the year. If only I had that sort of determination when it came to writing my novels and getting them published.

The lineup has changed several times, but the emphasis has always been on guitar-driven, melodic songs that were fun and sometimes smacked you in the jaw. Current/founding member Dave Faulkner recently posted a Zoom meeting on Facebook where he reminisces with former members Rod Radalj, Kimble Rendall, and James Baker about the band’s earliest days. The 37-minute clip can be watched for free on New Year’s Eve. Fans will also find a 1987 live performance video on the Hoodoo Gurus Facebook page.

Finally, a quick shout-out to Boris Boden, a fellow power pop fan I first met at Harlow’s rock club on Chicago’s southwest side. We often swapped information on new artists (The Smithereens, Ian Lloyd, Paul Collins Beat, 20/20) and Boris was the first to tell me about the Hoodoo Gurus. I still remember buying their debut album Stoneage Romeos at a downtown store and holding the plastic bag above my head while I hurried to the bus stop because it was raining. Boris is still a power pop connoisseur, which is abundantly evident when you listen to his Secret Weapon program on Woody Radio.  

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