Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Digging & Collecting The Hollies

The Hollies have had a pretty good year so far; being inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and seeing their new greatest hits collection Midas Touch make a respectable entry in U.K. Top 40 Albums Chart. They’re also being featured in two of my favorite magazines, Shindig and Record Collector. Both articles are based on interviews with drummer Bobby Elliott and guitarist Tony Hicks, the only original members who still perform with the band.

Record Collector writer Terry Staunton uses the RRHOF induction as the news hook for his It’s Too Late To Stop Stop Stop Now piece. He describes the appearance of Graham Nash and Allan Clarke at the ceremony (former members Terry Sylvester, Bernie Calvert, and Eric Haydock were there as well) as a “Hollies reunion of sorts” and then asks Elliott and Hicks for their take on the event. Elliott explains the current Hollies weren’t able to attend since they had already booked a concert at the London Palladium for the same evening. Both Elliott and Hicks say they would have liked to have been part of the performance, but they don’t seem overwhelmed by the honor itself.

Staunton covers other interesting topics as well, reaching back to the earliest days of the band’s recording history on up to newest member, vocalist Peter Howarth. He concludes the article by noting that in a few years, The Hollies will have been together for half a century.

Reading Andy Morten’s Hollies profile in Shindig makes me feel like he's a kindred soul. First, he names his article Elevated Observations, which is the title of an obscure Hollies B-side. I call my news items column on this blog Elevated Observations. Second, Morten spends a lot of time on what he calls “The Hollies’ holy trinity of self-composed albums,” which is For Certain Because (Stop Stop Stop in the U.S.), Evolution, and Butterfly (Dear Eloise/King Midas In Reverse in the U.S.). Those 1966/67 releases are among my favorite Hollies albums too.

Morten turns up some interesting information regarding Elliott not being able to perform at all on Evolution because he was still recovering from a burst appendix, and longtime Hollies producer Ron Richards initially feeling skeptical that the band members could ever write songs good enough to be released as singles. Hicks recalls performing with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones on Don and Phil Everly’s Two Yanks In England album.

“It was The Everly Brothers backed by what would become half of Led Zeppelin and little old me!”

Morten also goes into some depth about Nash’s departure for the United States, and how the other Hollies felt about it.

Like Mojo and Q, Record Collector and Shindig are magazines that are always worth checking out. The current issues have something of particular interest for Hollies fans.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

CD Review: Post Honeymoon - Post Honeymoon

Here’s one of the more unusual CDs I reviewed for the Illinois Entertainer in 2009. I can't imagine throwing this on at a party, but it's an intriguing work nonetheless.

Post Honeymoon’s self-titled debut is so relentlessly gloomy, a song about enduring the full wrath of Hurricane Katrina serves as one of its lighter moments. Disturbing images of destruction, murder, and betrayal abound here, set to sparse goth/punk arrangements. The duo is comprised of singer/keyboards player Rachel Shindelman and bassist/drummer Nick Kraska, both of whom played with two of Chicago’s more interesting bands, Bang! Bang! and New Black.

“Dirge,” set to traditional Creole funeral drum beats, effectively conveys both the dread of the hurricane’s approach and the bitterness of its aftermath when no one wants to help. A bottom heavy arrangement augments “The Night Before,” a tale of covering up a murder while the energetic “Night Guard” describes the terrors of living in a police state. On “Little Messes,” Shindelman taps out a melody similar to Blondie’s “Rapture” while she describes a little girl who discovers she would have had older siblings if her parents hadn’t killed them for misbehaving and buried them in the rose garden.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Good Times With Good Friends

2010 will see the return of two power pop acts who have been sorely missed on the recording scene. Hoodoo Gurus have already released Purity Of Essence in their native Australia, and it’s due to drop Stateside some time in April. The Bangles are still working on their yet-to-be-titled next release, but hopefully, it will be out this year. These two acts used to tour together back in the 1980s, and it would be great to see them reunite on the road if their schedules allow.

The Bangles have been known to appear as back-up singers on the occasional Hoodoo Gurus song. The 1987 single “Good Times,” released in advance of the Hoodoo Gurus’ Blow Your Cool album, has Susanna Hoffs, Debbi Peterson, Vicki Peterson, and Michael Steele beautifully harmonizing with lead vocalist Dave Faulkner. It’s a catchy mid-tempo tune that should give hope to broken hearted people all over the world. The arrangement feels like a 1960s chart-topper, although lead guitarist Brad Shepherd cuts loose with some modern-edged playing during an instrumental passage.

“You told me goodbye and I believed you,” Faulkner notes at the beginning of “Good Times.” But he goes on to describe a happy reconciliation, and suggests both parties always knew they had too much of a good thing to abandon it permanently. “What felt good before, today we’ll treasure so much more.” Like “Love Is For Lovers” by The dBs, “Good Times” is a joyous celebration of finding true love.

While “Good Times” is a fun collaboration between the Hoodoo Gurus and The Bangles, the B-Side, “Heart Of Darkness” sounds like The Smithereens have been summoned to help out. Pat DiNizio and the boys aren’t really on this record, but the crunching bass and guitar arrangement calls to mind the classic “Blood And Roses.” “Heart Of Darkness” is one of those spooky non-album tracks the Hoodoo Gurus were fond of slapping on back of single releases, and it makes for an interesting rarity.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why Did The Chicken Cross Abbey Road?

Go on, then. Make these lads laugh.

I’m usually sympathetic toward cashiers at retail stores and restaurants when they ask for my e-mail address since I once worked at a bookstore where we were practically waterboarded if we didn’t reach our monthly quota of acquiring customer e-mails.

So last summer when the cashier at the Apple Holler Restaurant just over the border in Wisconsin asked for my home address and e-mail, I gave it to her. After all, my wife and I had found the breakfast buffet tasty, the service had been friendly, and there was a good variety of vegetarian choices. Anyway, I now regularly receive e-mails as well as flyers from Apple Holler.

Their most interesting promotion concerns a show called “C’mon, Let’s Twist And Shout - Rockin’ Tribute To The Beatles” that will be performed on selected dates from February 11th through April 25th. According to the flyer, the show consists of memorable songs, intriguing narrative, and comedic sketches. I’ve seen quite a few Beatles tribute bands, including American English, Liverpool Legends (which is managed by George Harrison’s sister, Louise) and Liverpool, the band that performs at Fest For Beatles Fans. I’ve never seen any of them toss in some comedy routines.

The Beatles were very funny, whether it was in their movies or just coping with clueless media types at a press conference. But are the Apple Holler skits about The Beatles themselves, or fans acting crazy? Maybe the tribute band does parodies of Beatles songs, like my comedy group Famous In The Future has done.

I found some info at The Journal that states “C’mon, Let’s Twist And Shout - Rockin’ Tribute To The Beatles” was created by Apple Holler Entertainment Director Heather Clayton and Joaquin Hernandez, who’s described as a regular Apple Holler performer. Joining Clayton and Hernandez onstage are James Jones, John Clayton, and Elsbeth O’Brien.

I can’t say that I’ll make it back up to Wisconsin to see “C’mon, Let’s Twist And Shout - Rockin’ Tribute To The Beatles” at Apple Holler, but it sounds like a fun idea. I wish Clayton and her crew the best of luck.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Slumgullion #8

Heart will be at Lilith Fair in Chicago. Photo from Heart's official website.

As the weekend arrives, here’s another heaping bowlful of entertainment offerings and oddities.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow for Lilith Fair’s July 17th Chicago area stopover at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park. This is a classic example of the glass being half empty or half full. Certainly, we can’t complain about a line-up that includes the Fest’s co-founder Sarah McLachlan, Cat Power, Mary J. Blige, and Heart, but it’s hard not to lament the absence of other Lilith Fair acts like The Bangles, The Go-Go’s, and Metric.

The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame is now selling t shirts and mugs honoring the 2010 Inductees. That’s good news for fans of ABBA, Genesis, Jimmy Cliff, The Stooges, and The Hollies. The mugs are $8.99 and the t shirts, which have the RRHOF logo on the front and the inductees on the back, go for $20.99.

A recent announcement regarding the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2), which is coming to Navy Pier April 16th - 18th at Navy Pier, will give Star Wars fans reason to celebrate. Performers from the films, including Carrie Fisher, Ray Park, Daniel Logan, Amy Allen, Orli Shoshan, and Peter Mayhew will be on hand to meet fans and sign autographs. C2E2 will also have a special BBC America screening of the first two episodes of the latest incarnation of Doctor Who.

Chad and Jeremy are coming to FitzGerald’s in Berwyn on May 7th and will be at SPACE in Evanston on the following night. The British Invasion duo, who had hits with “Yesterday’s Gone” and “A Summer Song,” have seven gigs scheduled through April and May. That includes a May 29th Gordon Waller Tribute at The Cannery Casino in Las Vegas that will also feature Peter Asher of Peter and Gordon, Terry Sylvester of The Hollies, original Moody Blues vocalist and former Wings member Denny Laine, singer-ukulele player Ian Whitcomb, John Walker of The Walker Brothers, and Elvis Presley’s drummer, D.J. Fontana. Admission is free. Chad and Jeremy have recorded three new songs, “You Are She,” “Dragon Wanted,” and “Another Time,” which are available for downloading at Chad & Jeremy’s Digital Store.

Author Clay Eals noticed my item in last week’s Slumgullion about a Chicago post office being named in honor of the late singer-songwriter Steve Goodman. Eals wrote Steve Goodman: Facing The Music, an 880-page bio of Goodman that includes 575 photos, and says his 1,050 sources include Arlo Guthrie, Hilary Clinton, Steve Martin, and Studs Terkel. The book, which sold out its initial run of 5,000 copies, won a 2008 IPPY (Independent Publishers Association” silver medal for biography. It’s now in its second printing.

Another visitor to my blog recommends the co-ed British indie band Burgess & Maclean, whose melodic music can be sampled on its MySpace page. As song titles like “Capitalistic Weekend,” “My Hair My Nude,” and “Little Mermaid Tells A Lie” would suggest, Burgess & Maclean exude a quirky and at times, childlike sense of humor. My favorite track was “Whisper In The Night,” which brings to mind the songs of XTC. Burgess & Maclean’s latest CD is Outtakes In His Sickroom.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Music From The Other Austin

As the dust settles in Austin, Texas after another successful South By Southwest, word comes of the resurgence of another Austin. Writer Rob Manker notes in his smalltalk column in today’s Chicago Tribune that actor Mike Myers has started filming another Austin Powers movie.

I wish I could say I was excited, but as much as I enjoyed the first installment of this series, the two sequels seemed to steadily go downhill. Maybe I just never forgave Myers for the crass way he disposed of the Vanessa Kensington character. But I’ve often suspected that I’m on the wrong planet for humor. I prefer small, unexpected surprises to massive gross outs. Austin Powers cheerfully downing a mug of what he calls “nutty” coffee that’s really diarrhea: Not Funny. Dr. Evil taking a break in the climatic chase scene to feed his cat and sing the Meow Mix song: Funny.

A new Austin Powers movie most likely means a new soundtrack CD and that can be good news. The soundtrack for The Spy Who Shagged Me - More Music From The Motion Picture gave us the reformation of The Bangles via “Get The Girl” (the film’s director, Jay Roach is married to Susanna Hoffs) as well as 1960s classics like The Zombies’ “Time Of The Season,” Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride,” and The Monkees’ “I’m A Believer.” Toss in more modern artists like Lords Of Acid, Madonna, and They Might Be Giants; soulful crooner Marvin Gaye; and funk master George Clinton, and you’ve got an eclectic celebration of music. An earlier The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack gave us The Who, R.E.M., Lenny Kravitz, Green Day, The Flaming Lips, and a duet between Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello.

The first Austin Powers soundtrack, like the first movie, was superior to its successors. Beginning with English eccentric Edwyn Collins’s spritely “The Magic Piper (Of Love),” it offered a 17-song buffet that included the original psychedelia of The Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints,” the neo-1960s sound of “Call Me” by The Mike Flowers Pops, a bouncy instrumental track called “Soul Bossa Nova” by Quincy Jones and His Orchestra, and the trip hop music of Space on “Female Of The Species.”

“I Touch Myself” by The Divinyls echoed Austin’s rampant horniness, The Wondermints performed their original tune, “Austin Powers,” and Sergio Mendes and Brazil ‘66 gave us the irresistible Latin rhythms of “Mas Que Nada.” The cover versions were equally fascinating. The Lightning Seeds made “You Showed Me” even more sensual than the original by The Turtles, Susanna Hoffs seduced us with her remake of Dusty Springfield’s “The Look Of Love,” and The Posies backed Burt Bacharach on a new version of Jackie DeShannon’s “What The World Needs Now Is Love.”

The first Austin Powers soundtrack also gave us Ming Tea, a band created specifically for the film, that consisted of lead vocalist/Austin Powers Mike Myers, backed by Hoffs, Matthew Sweet, Stuart Johnson, and Christopher Ward. (The band currently has its own fan page on Facebook.) Ming Tea’s song, “BBC” was a blast, and it was fun seeing the musicians popping up at various times in the flick.

Hopefully, Mike Myers will be able to recapture the goofy yet knowing spy spoof fun of the original Austin Powers, and give us a soundtrack that’s an adventure in itself.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

45 RPM Memories

A semi-regular feature about some of my favorite singles from the past.

The Bangles official website sponsored a live online chat room with vocalist-guitarist Vicki Peterson last night. She spent a few hours answering questions, and her most interesting responses had to do with the new CD The Bangles are currently recording. It’s due to be released later this year.

Asked by a fan to compare the new CD to the band’s solid but underrated 2003 release, Doll Revolution, Peterson reckoned it would be looser and more eclectic. More like The Bangles’ 1984 full length debut, All Over The Place. She added that she couldn’t say for sure, because it’s not finished yet.

All Over The Place featured the modest hit single, “Hero Takes A Fall,” an edgy guitar-driven gem that even critics who later soured on the band still admit is a good song. The video helped break the band on MTV. The song was written by singer-guitarist Susanna Hoffs and Peterson; one of the nine originals on All Over The Place. In later years, under pressure to continue their string of hits, The Bangles brought in hired guns to help write some songs. Unfortunately, this created the popular and lingering misconception that the band was unable to write its own material.

The Bangles do have a history of interpreting other artists, like the late Alex Chilton, Kimberly Rew, Jules Shear, and Elvis Costello, but that’s probably because they’re so good at it. Take for example, “Where Were You When I Needed You,” the B-Side of “Hero Takes A Fall.” Written by the 1960s songwriting duo P. F Sloan and Steve Barri, it’s a melodic lament about being betrayed by a lover, with an intricate vocal arrangement that calls to mind The Mamas & The Papas.

So if The Bangles’ next effort does take them back to the more carefree, power pop and garage rock days of All Over The Place, that would certainly be a good thing. Can't wait to find out.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

CD Review: All Girl Summer Fun Band - Looking Into It

NOTE: This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer.

Music buying would be a lot easier if every act named itself as accurately as All Girl Summer Fun Band. Veterans of the Portland indie scene, guitarist/vocalist Kim Baxter, bassist/vocalist Jen Sbragia, and drummer/vocalist Kathy Foster certainly sound like they’re enjoying themselves on their latest release, Looking Into It. The catchy, but basic arrangements align them with Veruca Salt and Sleater-Kinney, but their knack for vocal interplay adds an element of folk.

Several of these songs, from the high-energy “Not The One For Me” to the more subtle “Trajectory” explore the downside of romantic entanglements. “Plastic Toy Dream” shows the band at its hardest, both emotionally and musically, while the acoustic-based “The Only Ones” takes a more upbeat view with lines like, “I thought I was afraid of the dark/Then you led me out under the stars.” “Rewind” is sad and touching, and All Girl Summer Fun Band cut loose on the energetic instrumental title track.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Vintage Publication Spotlight #6

My latest entry in an ongoing series devoted to ‘zines of the past.

I mentioned in a earlier post that I started writing for a publication called Metro Entertainment Calendar while I was still an English major at the University of Illinois at Chicago. After Metro Entertainment Calendar folded in the Spring of 1979, I followed photographers Linda Matlow and Roger Johnson to a weekly free paper called Prairie Sun.

It was a definite step up from MEC, not only in quality, but also in terms of circulation. Prairie Sun was distributed in several states, and it was my understanding that it was especially popular on college campuses. Several of the people involved with this publication are still active in the entertainment business, including Matlow, Cary Baker, Bill Paige, Linda Cain, and Kevin Toelle.

This particular issue came out on December 19, 1981, and featured a cover story on Genesis. I contributed a lengthy piece on the WLS sponsored Rockfest ‘81, lamenting that it failed to draw as big of a crowd as a similar event sponsored by WLUP a year earlier, despite the presence of solid national acts like The Go-Go’s, Red Ryder, The Kings, The Knack, and Loverboy. I also had high praise for local performers Shoes, The Kind, and Off Broadway.

In the Reviews section, Kevin Morrissey wrote about the now legendary U2 performance at Chicago’s Park West club; Steve Rager heralded Rod Stewart’s Tonight’s The Night as “his most potent album in six years;” and Bill Huyten covered the Muddy Waters concert in the Quad Cities. The Weekly Record column wondered if Steve Martin’s Twilight Theatre would replace Saturday Night Live; noted that ABC TV’s 20/20 was doing a segment on bands like The Kinks and Jefferson Starship who had been around 15 years; and complained that, “One of rock ‘n’ roll’s true slimes, Ozzy Osbourne is touring again.” Of course that was before Oz became a family man.

Like Chicago’s Reader, Prairie Sun covered political topics as well. Ron Wolf did a piece on transporting plutonium; and there was also an item titled Congress Targets Federal Election Commission. This issue also contained the ballot for The 1981-82 Prairie Sun Readers’ Poll, with categories such as Best Live Performer; Best Midwest Album; and Best Midwest Single. Unfortunately, we eventually lost this entertaining and eclectic publication, I believe somewhere in the mid-1980s.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Slumgullion #7

Photo from David Tennant's Facebook Fan Site.

Another Friday collection of various items from the world of entertainment.

He took you to every corner of the universe, and now he wants to sell you a t shirt. Actor David Tennant, who just wrapped up his tenure on Doctor Who, has designed a t-shirt to be sold exclusively through Headway Essex, an English charity that helps people with brain injuries. Tennant’s design, a sort of scribbled self-portrait, looks like he might have seen a few of John Lennon’s doodles. The shirt is available in black or white, comes in either a male or female fit, and sells for £22. The bad news: so far it looks like only people in the U.K. can order them. By the way, the next season of Doctor Who, with Matt Smith now in the lead role, kicks off on BBC America on Saturday, April 17th.

I’m sure I was just one of the many people who learned about Alex Chilton’s death by reading about it on Facebook and Twitter. There were dozens of posts, as musicians like Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies, Matthew Sweet, and Vicki Peterson of The Bangles mingled with fans in expressing their surprise and sorrow. It was a touching tribute to Chilton, who started out as a teenager with The Box Tops, and went on to inspire the birth of power pop through his work with Big Star.

Chicago is delivering a well-deserved honor to home town hero Steve Goodman by naming a post office after him. Goodman, who died of leukemia in 1984, penned “City Of New Orleans,” which was a hit for Arlo Guthrie, and also recorded classic satirical songs like “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request” and “Lincoln Park Pirates.”

Singer-guitarist Kevin Lee’s new EP, Dusk Till Dawn is the follow-up to his impressive 2006 full length collection of catchy power pop tunes, Flip The Switch. He and his back-up band, The Kings will be celebrating its release with a performance tonight at The Elbo Room, located at 2871 N. Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. The Kings include bassist Dann Morr, drummer Erik Strommer, and guitarist Johnny Million, formerly of Big Hello.

SOPRO will be hatching its 23rd Annual Easter Parade All Star Blues Revue on April 3rd at Tommy’s Place in Blue Island, Illinois. It’s the Spring sibling of SOPRO’s annual Thanksgiving Blues Bash. Headliners The Chicago Horns play traditional jazz, and have released some critically acclaimed CDs, as well as a DVD. Also on the multi-artist bill are vocalists Vivian Vance Kelly and Deb Seitz; singer-harmonica player Doug Lee; guitarist-singer Billy King; and guitarist-singer Joe “Guitarzilla” Jammer. Jammer also has a show tonight (March 19th) at the Voodoo Lounge in Burbank, Illinois. Tommy’s Place is located at 12237 South Western Avenue. 708-389-7810

Midas Touch - The Very Best Of The Hollies was released in England in late February, where it immediately nabbed the #23 slot on the official BBC Albums Chart. The two-disc set has 48 tracks, including live recordings of “The Baby” and “I Would Fly.” Cool looking CD cover, but those of us who already own about 50 Hollies compilations might hold off.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

CD Review: Imelda May - Love Tattoo

Imelda May made quite an impression on The Grammys and was in Chicago for a live performance at Martyrs’ on March 15th, where her powerful voice and extraordinary stage presence wowed the critics. Here’s a review of her debut CD that I wrote a while back for the Illinois Entertainer.

Having already racked up accolades such as “Rising Star of 2009” and “Best Female Newcomer” in her native Ireland, Imelda May approaches the States with a debut CD brimming with authentic American music. A gifted singer-songwriter with a versatile voice, her ability to evoke past musical eras is bound to draw comparisons to Amy Winehouse and Duffy. But Love Tattoo also showcases an independent artist with the ability to switch genres at will.

The rockabilly “Johnny Got A Boom Boom” opens with slap-happy bass and percussion before May enters with her playful and throaty vocals. The bluesy romp “Smotherin’ Me” is a funny jab at an over-attentive boyfriend, but May also offers pure romance on “Falling In Love With You Again,” a 1940s style torch song that celebrates finding new sparks in a long-time relationship. A top notch band backs May throughout, covering everything from the Dixieland jazz of “Feel Me” to the energetic rock of the title track.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

CD Review: The Urges - Psyche Ward

On St. Patrick’s Day, it’s customary to reflect on the many great musical artists that have come from Ireland, including U2, Van Morrison, The Cranberries, The Undertones, Rory Gallagher, Thin Lizzy, The Pogues, Horslips, Clannad, and Sinead O’Connor. Here’s a CD review of a newer band that carries on the tradition. Note: This review first appeared in the Illinois Entertainer.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

The Urges come from Dublin, but on their U.S. debut Psyche Ward they sound like they could have been next door neighbors to Wicked Cool labelmates The Chesterfield Kings. In the 1960s. It seems odd that these Irish lads would be so proficient at garage rock, but then Belfast native Van Morrison helped invent the genre when he recorded “Gloria” with Them over four decades ago.

The organ playing on “It Aint Right” evokes go-go girls and vintage spy movies, and Glen Lee Flynn’s spirited guitar playing ignites the catchy melodies of songs like “Jenny Jenny” and “Read The Signs.” Lead singer Jim Walters’ snarling vocals make him sound like a tour guide in a haunted house, and on “Salvaje,” he howls and laughs throughout its spooky arrangement. The intro for “The Urges Theme” sounds like a surf instrumental, and the song goes on to feature some of Flynn’s most fluid guitar playing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Return Of The Two Teens

From left to right: Nash, Clarke, Haydock, Elliott, and Hicks.

The Hollies were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame at an official ceremony held in New York on March 15th. The show was broadcast on the Fuse cable channel. Prior to Little Steven Van Zandt’s introduction, there was a video montage of the band performing its hits on various TV shows and at concerts, plus snippets of interviews from over the years.

Van Zandt opened with a shout out to Iggy Pop, who had rocked the house with a live performance following his induction. Van Zandt went on to take a few swipes at the current state of the recording industry and The Grammy Awards in particular, before he got around to talking about The Hollies. But his genuine passion for rock and roll added weight to his endorsement of the band, as he described Tony Hicks as an underrated guitarist, lauded Bobby Elliott’s inventive drumming style, and praised the three part harmonies of Allan Clarke, Graham Nash, and Hicks.

As expected, Nash, Clarke, and Terry Sylvester were on hand to accept the awards, and it was a pleasant surprise to see original bass player Eric Haydock and the man who replaced him, Bernie Calvert, also on hand. Fuse got the bassists mixed up; showing Calvert’s name on the screen while Haydock was speaking. Hicks and Elliott were not able to attend because they were performing with the current version of The Hollies at The London Palladium.

Clarke reminisced about how he and Nash met as kids in school, and grew up sharing a love for rock music. Nash was particularly pleased to see his lifelong friend receive the Hall Of Fame Honor. Sylvester cracked a few jokes, and then paid tribute to the band’s first manager.

As for the performance, Clarke and an acoustic guitar strumming Nash sang “Bus Stop” and “Carrie Anne,” backed by The Paul Schaffer Band (from The Late Show with David Letterman) and with some vocal assistance from Adam Levine and Jesse Carmichael of Maroon 5. Van Zandt kicked off “Long Cool Woman In Black Dress” by playing its famous guitar intro, and Patrick Monahan from Train came on stage to handle the lead singing. Clarke, who sang lead on the original, strapped on an electric guitar for this number, and joined Nash on back-up vocals. Sylvester joined the rousing rendition, singing a few lines on a mic he borrowed from Monahan.

It was great that The Hollies finally received this long overdue honor. And even more touching to see Graham Nash and Allan Clarke, laughing and having a blast together, decades removed from their first performances together as The Two Teens in the clubs of Manchester, England.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Just a reminder that The Hollies will be inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame tonight. The ceremony will be broadcast on the Fuse Channel at 7:30 PM Central Standard Time. Break out the champagne and celebrate.

Congratulations to Graham Nash, Allan Clarke, Terry Sylvester, Tony Hicks, Bobby Elliott, Carl Wayne, Bernie Calvert, Mikael Rikfors, Eric Haydock, and Don Rathbone. Plus, a tip of the hat to the current Hollies members who tour and record with Hicks and Elliott: Ian Parker, Steve Lauri, Ray Stiles, and Peter Howarth.

It's also a good time to pay tribute to the late Carl Wayne, who served as The Hollies’ lead vocalist from 2000 to 2004. Already famous for his work with The Move as well as in theatre productions, Carl sought to bring Hollies fans closer to their favorite group. I had the honor of meeting him in 2002. As I wrote in a piece for Amplifier Magazine, he was the people's Hollie.

I met Wayne while The Hollies were doing a soundcheck hours before an outdoor concert in Stillwater, Minnesota. The band ran through a few songs at the soundcheck; seeming to take longer because there were a number of fans watching them. Unfortunately, the actual concert was rained out, and I’ve never had a chance to see The Hollies since. Hopefully, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame honor will spark some sort of tour in the United States. Maybe even one that brings the current and former members together.

Talk Of London Town

The recent release of the Live In London CD/DVD set triggers a rush of memories concerning The Pretenders. Their 1980 self-titled debut shook the world by mixing elements of punk and classic rock, and established Chrissie Hynde as a songwriter whose lyrics could sting as well as comfort. I still remember being at parties or bars and hearing people shout some of her classic lines as a song like “Precious” or “Tatooed Love Boys” blasted on the stereo. Hynde’s amazing vocals enabled her to convey a wide range of emotions.

The Pretenders had the good fortune to arrive just as rock videos were at the height of their popularity. Hynde’s commanding presence, combined with imaginative imagery, established the band’s reputation for making enticing videos, from the touching story of the lonely waitress in “Brass In Pocket” to The Avengers parody of “Don’t Get Me Wrong.” I have several VHS tapes and DVDs of rock bands, but never seem to watch any of them as much as I do The Pretenders Greatest Hits, which offers 20 clips from throughout the band’s career.

Over the course of three decades, Hynde has maintained her edge. The tragic loss of two members early on could have brought about the demise of The Pretenders, but she soldiered on and continued to create great music. Live in London, which was recorded during The Pretenders’ 2009 tour, shows Hynde at full power on classics like “Back On The Chain Gang” as well as newer material like “Boots Of Chinese Plastic.”

I’ve seen two live performances by The Pretenders, and both came by winning WXRT contests. One was at the Rosemont Horizon in 1994, and had the added benefit of a stellar opening set by the Chicago power pop trio, Material Issue. And about a year ago, I encountered the band in a more intimate setting at The Martyrs club in Chicago. Although at times the event felt more like hanging out with Hynde and her mates at a rowdy party than watching an actual concert, it was a fascinating opportunity to get a close up view of one of rock’s all time great artists.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Slumgullion #6

Photo taken from Sarah McLachlan's website.

It's late Friday night, and metaphorically speaking, the dirty pots and pans are in the sink, the stove is covered with spills and stains, and the kitchen has a strange, but not altogether unpleasant fragrance. All of which can only mean one thing: another serving of that exotic stew of entertainment happenings, Slumgullion.

There Will Be Songs To Sing The pond in our back yard is only now starting to thaw, and it will be at least a month before migrating birds start dropping by on their way back up north. But there has already been a flood of reports on the music festivals that will be coming to the Chicago area this summer. In addition to highly anticipated announcements about Lollapalooza, Ravinia and Pitchfork, there was the welcome surprise that Lilith Fair is coming back. Created by Sarah McLachlan, Terry McBride, Dan Fraser, and Marty Diamond in 1997, Lilith Fair lasted for three years. The tours were billed as celebrations of women in music, and according to Wikipedia, raised 10 million dollars for various charities. Toward the end of last year, McBride announced that Lilith Fair would be reborn in the summer of 2010. Like its predecessors, the new version finds McLachlan joined by female musicians and female-fronted bands from several genres, including The Go-Go’s and The Bangles; Loretta Lynn, Kelly Clarkson and Martina McBride; Cat Power, Metric, and Gossip; and Mary J. Blige and Erykah Badu. The Indigo Girls, Heart, Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow, and Colbie Caillat have also signed on. Lilith Fair 2010 has stops scheduled in several cities, including Chicago, Washington, D.C., Tampa, Boston, Dallas, and Nashville. It’s not clear yet if all of these artists will perform in each city, but it would be a tremendous festival if they did. Lilith Fair is also conducting a Local Talent Search for new artists who would like to join these impressive headliners in concert.

Famous In The Forest Black Forest Theatre is offering a double bill of “comedy and weirdness” on March 20th at its brand new space at 512 Kedzie in Evanston. Black Forest, led by Carla Hayden and James Moeller, will perform its own avant garde piece, The Wig. Famous In The Future, the sketch comedy group I wrote and performed with for 20 years, will perform a revue titled Loose Animals. I believe that’s the revue FIF (Frank Carr, Desiree Burcum, Michael Hora and Tina Teske) did at last year’s Abbie Hoffman Festival at the Mary-Arrchie Theatre (See August under Archives). As I said last summer, it would be impossible for me to write an unbiased critique of Loose Animals, but I did think my old mates offered some funny takes on current topics. Hayden and Moeller will be performing with their band WhiteWolfSonicPrincess at the Elbo Room on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago on April 2nd. I caught a WWSP gig at Goose Island Brewery a few weeks back, and the new lineup is looking good.

The Story On Story Week Columbia College will be sponsoring Story Week from March 14th through 19 at its Film Row Cinema and other venues around Chicago. Subtitled a Festival Of Writers, it will include readings, panel discussions, performances, and signings. In addition to guests like Joyce Carol Oates and Achy Obejas, Story Week will hold a special Literary Rock & Roll: Rock The Genre night with writers Aleksander Hemon, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and Marcus Sakey. There will be a performance by Bread & Puppet Theater, and music provided by DJ/Metro owner Joe Shanahan and DJ Don De Grazia. Call 312-369-7611 for more information.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Under The Influence - Part Three

Waiting for the No. 36 Broadway? Material Issue gives “Bus Stop” the Chicago power pop treatment.

With five days left until The Hollies are inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, it’s time to take another look at Sing Hollies In Reverse, the 1995 various artists compilation recorded in their honor. Here are three more highlights from that tribute CD.

The Wondermints are a power pop act that has artfully mixed lush vocals, clever lyrics, and inventive arrangements on CDs like Bali and a self-titled 1996 effort. The band frequently contributes to tribute albums, and members Darian Sahanaja, Probyn Gregory, and Nicky Walusko are part of Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s critically acclaimed band when he goes out on tour. On Sing Hollies In Reverse, The Wondermints give “You Need Love,” one of The Hollies better album tracks, an energetic arrangement that has more of an edge than the original while still maintaining a definite 1960s feel. Sahanaja’s keyboard playing add an additional texture to the song.

Formed in the early 1990s, The Continental Drifters mixed roots rock with power pop on CDs like Vermillion and Better Day. With a lineup that included Peter Holsapple from The dB’s, Vicki Peterson from The Bangles, and Susan Cowsill from The Cowsills, it was a cinch the band would electrify the early Hollies single, “I Can’t Let Go.” Robert Mache nails its classic guitar intro and Cowsill does a great job singing lead. The vocals and instrumentation are nearly identical to the original, with the main difference being the co-ed harmonies provided by Holsapple, Peterson, and drummer Carlo Nuccio.

Material Issue would get its own tribute album with Just What This World Needs in 2000, but back in 1995, the Chicago power pop trio brought its distinctive sound to one of The Hollies’ best known hit singles. Jim Ellison’s vocals are immediately recognizable on this revved up version of “Bus Stop,” making it sound like it would have fit right in on Material Issue’s impressive debut, International Pop Overthrow. The Chicago band excelled at cover versions, particularly “Kim The Waitress” on Freak City Soundtrack, and a cover of “Run To Me” on the Bee Gees tribute CD, Melody Fair.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dag, He’s Busy!

Some people just seem to be perpetually involved in creative endeavors. Like my former co-worker Heather Svoboda, who at last count was performing in 500 improv groups, and was contemplating a go at stand-up. She also performed in a scripted show with Black Forest Theatre. I might be exaggerating about the number of her improv groups, but you can find out for yourself when one of them, The Fling performs March 13th at The Playground Theater at 3209 North Halsted in Chicago. The Senate and The Basic Eight are also on the bill. The show starts at 8PM.

I’m tempted to say that Dag Juhlin has played in at least 1,000 different rock bands, but the thumbnail bio on his Facebook page says it better: “Entertainment professional since 1910.” I have a 45 record, an LP and a CD by The Slugs, one of Juhlin’s first groups; I saw him with The Greenwoods at International Pop Overthrow; and I saw him open for The Hoodoo Gurus at The Abbey Pub with The Goldstars. He has also taken part in tributes to XTC.

Now, Juhlin has this EXPO'76 thing going on, and their next show is March 10th, at Simon’s Tavern, at 5210 North Clark Street in Chicago. The band’s blog states that this is the beginning of a residency at the club, so those of us who can’t make the March 10th show can look for them on second Wednesday of next month.

From what I can make out, EXPO’76 is a covers band comprised of four rock and roll veterans. In addition to Juhlin on vocals and guitar, the lineup includes Kenn Goodman, the founder of Pravda Records and member of The Service; Ralph Baumel; and John Carpender. The band covers anything from new wave to jazz and folk, with a set list that includes “Laughter In The Rain” by Neil Sedaka,“You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice” by Lovin’ Spoonful, “Cruel To Be Kind” by Nick Lowe, and “Fire” by Bruce Springsteen.

Juhlin usually finds a unique way to hype his performances. For one of the XTC tribute shows, he taped himself manning a fictional XTC Reunion Hotline, where he mostly dealt with inquiries about ELO, ELP, and in one case, an embarrassed caller seeking help with an STD. The take away message: there aint going to be no XTC reunion, so see this tribute instead. For the EXPO’76 March 10th gig at Simon’s, he’s claiming the club originally planned on holding a Lil’ Wayne Defense Fund Charity Auction, but it was canceled, so his band agreed to fill in at the last minute. EXPO’76 goes on at 8:30PM. There is no cover charge.

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