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.  

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Extra! Extra! Local Publication And Venues Need Your Support

Last Thursday’s Chicago Tribune picked up a story from The New York Times about the return of The Village Voice after a two-year absence. Prior to its farewell in 2018, the New York alternative weekly had been around for 63 years. According to reporter Katie Robinson, The Village Voice will first return online in January and appear in printed form on a quarterly basis. The revival comes courtesy of Street Media, which owns the LA Weekly publication.

Chicago has a long-running free paper and it’s reaching out for assistance. The Chicago Reader started as a weekly publication back in 1971, but now comes out every other week. Ownership has changed a few times and the current staff is led by a veteran of the local publishing scene, Tracy Baim. I still have copies from when each issue had four sections. Whatever the format, the Chicago Reader has consistently offered cutting-edge journalism as well as extensive and respected coverage of the local music, theatre, and performing arts scene. You can also help out by buying merchandise at the paper’s gift shop.

Speaking of online shops, you’ll find an impressive display of ingenuity, variety, and fun when you check your favorite venues to see what they have to offer. I was glad Lincoln Hall and Schubas sold out all three versions of their concert passports but disappointed because I wanted to buy one. These items resemble actual passports, and can be used for admission to live performances once the club starts booking them again. You can still find t-shirts and posters for sale on the Lincoln Hall and Schubas website.

SPACE  has t-shirts, mugs, candles, and hats among its offerings; Beat Kitchen has t-shirts, face masks, and tote bags; and Montrose Saloon has limited edition F.U. Corona/“No Quarter Shall Be Given To The Enemies of Humanity” t-shirts that give COVID-19 the middle finger. Martyrs’ offers a selection of Music Saves, Music Is Good t-shirts; and The Hideout has an amazing 25th Anniversary calendar that will going up on a wall in my media room in a few days.

FitzGerald’s has t-shirts, sweatshirts, and beanie hats; and Metro has been sorting through its vault to offer posters and other memorabilia.  CIVL - Chicago Independent Venue League has posters, t-shirts, and a double LP to help out local entertainment establishments. Also, don’t forget a lot of your favorite venues are still offering pick-up and delivery service.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Saturday Slumgullion

I’m sorry Slumgullion is late again this week but I was making rather merry last night. It won’t happen again, Mr. Scrooge. Actually, it will, and probably soon. At any rate, I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season and staying safe and healthy.

Beatles fans who’ve been anxiously awaiting Peter Jackson’s documentary The Beatles Get Back received an early Christmas present when the acclaimed director shared an almost six-minute long preview this past Monday. The montage of previously unreleased footage provides an insider’s view of the band’s creative process as well as some cheeky humor. It was no surprise when Jackson’s clip quickly spread across social media.

Georgia Comes Alive - A Virtual Concert To Get Out The Vote kicked off at 3:00 pm today and offered performances by 50 bands. Foo Fighters; Los Lobos; Mike Mills Featuring Big Something; Portugal. The Man; Ben Folds; Pete Yarrow; Blind Boys Of Alabama; Phil Lesh And Friends; Nathaniel Rateliff; Grace Potter; Preservation Hall Jazz Band; and The Revivalists are just a few examples of the event’s wide range of entertainment. The event was a benefit for the Georgia Coalition For The People’s Agenda and CivicGeorgia.

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 the past year, as evidenced by the somber but well-crafted closing song, “The Weirdest Christmas.” 

In a completely different vein, Angotti, NRBQ member Casey McDonough, and producer/musician Blair Holmes recently posted “Tomorrow Never Snows” on YouTube. It’s a fun medley that finds the trio singing Christmas carol lyrics to the tune of classic Beatles songs. “Here Comes Santa Claus” rocks to “Here Comes The Sun,” and “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” “Frosty The Snowman,” and “Rudolph Then Red Nosed Reindeer” all sport beat group arrangements and harmony vocals.

The Chicago-based indie rock band The Handcuffs premiered a new song earlier today on DJ Mike Lidskin’s program on Woody Radio. “Love Me While You Can,” the first single from from their upcoming fourth album, has a January 8 release date on the Color Red Records. The full album Burn The Rails will be coming out in spring, and if it’s as good as their previous releases, well worth the wait.

Hushdrops, another impressive local band recently released the four-song EP Indian Summer. It’s their first new material in a while, but still resonates with the strong melodies and psychedelic ambience that made their earlier efforts so compelling.

Rock music fans have been known to puzzle over The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s choices for inductees—why some acts are chosen, why some keep getting overlooked—but The RRHOF is now actually selling 500-piece puzzles of some of its honorees. Choices include The Beatles; The Rolling Stones; The Who; Queen; David Bowie; and The Doors. As with the RRHOF t-shirts, it seems unfair that some inductees have two or three items while most have none. I’d love to see a lot more variety in The Hall’s merchandise.

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. 

BBC Radio 4 will be celebrating the life and work of Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and Rutles musician/Monty Python collaborator Neil Innes throughout December. The Monty Python Official Instagram page promises there will be new and archival interviews with Python members. 

As noted in an Instagram post from the music venue Sleeping Village, artist-musician Steve Krakow, AKA Plastic Crimewave, has joined forces with Wake Up! Music to create a Heroes Of Chicago House Coloring Book. The 34-page effort features illustrations of house music stars from the 1980s and 90s. It’s available from Wake Up! Music for $20, and $5 of each sale will go to the Sustain Chicago Music Organization.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

A Different Holiday Approach With The JAC and The Myrrhderers

“Won’t Be Leaving Home For Christmas” is this year’s holiday gift from Australian vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Joe Algeri, AKA The JAC. In keeping with his annual tradition, the song is available as a free download on his Bandcamp page. Algeri rarely takes a conventional approach on his Yuletide efforts, so it’s no surprise the 2020 edition is haunted by the ghost of COVID-19. The pandemic isn’t mentioned specifically, but you get the idea with lines like “You can smile and keep your distance/Let’s make a wish and split the difference.” The message may be melancholy but it’s delivered via Algeri’s usual clever wordplay. 

As a long-time member of the international power pop band The Britannicas (these guys were doing the isolated recording thing before it was a safety measure), Algeri once again crafts a catchy arrangement. There’s also an impressive guitar-driven instrumental break. Fellow Britannicas member bassist-backup vocalist Herb Eimerman from America helps out, along with drummer Stefan Johanson and organ player Lars Brussel from Sweden; Andy J. Prinkkila from Finland; and Algeri’s daughter Hanna on backup vocals. “Won’t Be Leaving Home For Christmas” reflects on a tough 2020, but still can make staying in more enjoyable.

For those who like their seasonal music with sharp edges, The Myrrhderers offer five high-speed renditions of holiday classics on their Sleigh Xmas  EP. “Deck The Halls” is actually joyous, which is what you’d want from that song, while “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” sounds as fierce as anything that sprang from the Los Angeles punk scene back in the early 1980s. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and the instrumental/spoken word “Carol Of The Bells” don’t make the transformation as successfully, but the galloping “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is a blast by any standards.

The bio on The Myrrhderers’ Bandcamp page is as fun as it is fictional, stating, “The Myrrhderers are a punk supergroup featuring members of the North Pole underground music scene.” The band came right back with another EP, titled The Myrrhderers Sleigh Some More, featuring an irresistible punk/ska take on “Sleigh Ride” and four other amped-up chestnuts.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Saturday Slumgullion

Ringo Starr just released an inspirational new song and video titled “Here’s To The Nights” that serves as a global holiday present with its uplifting message and impressive lineup of well-known performers helping out on vocals. Peace And Love, indeed.

CIVL - Chicago Independent Venue League wrapped up its four-part CIVLIZATION livestream concert series last night with performances by Xoe Wise, Avery R. Young, and David Boykin Expanse. The gigs were intended to draw attention to the economic hardships encountered by entertainment venues as well as musicians across the Chicago area, and donations are always welcome at the organization’s website. There’s also an CIVL online store where t-shirts, posters, a double LP, and even shower curtains sporting awesome CIVL artwork can be purchased to help the cause.

This past week brought birthday celebrations for two long-time, critically acclaimed guitarists who emerged in the original British Invasion and have been with us ever since. So cheers to Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones and Tony Hicks of The Hollies. It was great to see both gentlemen receive loads of best wishes across social media.

Tony Hicks has the last word in a new video The Hollies created to celebrate the season, as well as honor the medical workers who have helped us battle COVID-19. Opening with vocalist Peter Howarth singing “Silent Night”—I wish they’d release the entire song as a download—and shifting to the whole band performing “The Air That I Breathe” in concert footage, it’s definitely a heartfelt clip. Each band member offers a holiday message, and Hicks wraps things up with, “Merry Christmas. We miss you. And we’ll see you again soon.” The video can be viewed on the official Hollies Facebook.

Congratulations to Coco and Blu in Arlington Heights on its first anniversary. The European style cafe was fully decked out this afternoon for the celebration with ribbons and balloons. Coco and Blu also serves cocktails and occasionally brings in a DJ, so I suspect it will blossom into an even more adventurous venue once COVID-19 loosens its grip on the world.

The U.K. charitable organization Lifeshare has a livestream event coming up to help awareness of the city of Manchester’s homeless community. Put together by High Violet PR and Plugging, the five-hour presentation features Tom Hingley of Inspiral Carpets, Barry Sutton of The La’s and several other music acts. Spoken word performers Karl Hildebrandt and Leon The Pig Farmer will also be on hand, along with DJ sets and special guests. The music can be streamed for free on the Lifeshare website, but donations are encouraged.


BBC Radio 4 will be celebrating the life and work of Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and Rutles musician/Monty Python collaborator Neil Innes throughout December. The Monty Python Official Instagram page promises there will be new and archival interviews with Python members. 

As noted in an Instagram post from the music venue Sleeping Village, artist-musician Steve Krakow, AKA Plastic Crimewave, has joined forces with Wake Up! Music to create a Heroes Of Chicago House Coloring Book. The 34-page effort features illustrations of house music stars from the 1980s and 90s. It’s available from Wake Up! Music for $20, and $5 of each sale will go to the Sustain Chicago Music Organization.

Metro, one of Chicago’s best-loved music venues since 1982, continues to find tempting new items from its vault to sell via its online store. This week, it’s a colorful Be Kind Be Creative 2020 silkscreen poster that features Metro’s iconic outdoor sign. Visitors to the site will find Metro and Smart Bar t-shirts, accessories, and various indie rock gig posters.

I was once 53 miles west of Venus, thanks to The B-52’s, but Jupiter and Saturn will appear to be even closer to each other than that on Monday at sunset. As explained by Chicago Tribune reporter Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas, the event is scientifically known as a conjunction, but has also been called a “Christmas Star,” due to the timing of its arrival. It will be the closest the two planets have come together in 400 years.

Rosenberg-Douglas quotes Shane Larson from Northwestern’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics as saying, “This is not just a once-in-a-lifetime event, this is a once-in-our-history since-we-built-the-telescope event.” The conjunction will be most visible on the horizon just as the sun is setting. So, put together a space age playlist, throw on your face mask and go out have a socially distanced cosmic bash. Now, won’t that make you feel a whole lot better?

Friday, December 11, 2020


Steve Earle and The Dukes and several other big-name acts will perform at the Sixth Annual John Henry’s Friends - A Benefit For The Keswell School this Sunday night. The lineup features Emmylou Harris, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, Lucinda Williams, Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, Josh Ritter, Matt Savage, Shawn Colvin, The Mastersons, and Warren Haynes. All donations will aid Keswell’s mission to provide educational programs for children and adults with autism. There are also celebrity-contributed items available in a silent auction.

Episode 3 of the CIVLIZATION streaming series is going on tonight. Supernova, Quin Kirchner, Minor Moon and Ami will be performing. In addition to giving music fans the opportunity to enjoy shows, the series aims to cast a spotlight on the CIVL Emergency Relief Fund. Working in conjunction with the Giving Back Fund, CIVL supports Chicago artists and venues. Donations are being accepted at the CIVL website.

BBC Radio 4 will be celebrating the life and work of Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and Rutles musician/Monty Python collaborator Neil Innes throughout December. The Monty Python Official Instagram page promises there will be new and archival interviews with Python members. 

Metro recently announced it has some more items from the vault for sale at its online store. 

Visitors to the site will find Metro and Smart Bar t-shirts, accessories, and indie rock gig posters for Dinosaur Jr.,  Babes In Toyland, Bob Mould, The Donnas, Guided By Voices, Sharon Van Etten, Wire, Questlove, and others.

As noted in an Instagram post from the music venue Sleeping Village today, artist-musician Steve Krakow, AKA Plastic Crimewave, has joined forces with Wake Up! Music to create a Heroes Of Chicago House Coloring Book. The 34-page effort features illustrations of house music stars from the 1980s and 90s. It’s available from Wake Up! Music for $20, and $5 of each sale will go to the Sustain Chicago Music Organization.

Krakow’s distinctive style will be familiar to those who have followed his weekly The Secret History Of Chicago Music strip in the Chicago Reader, and he released a Compendium of those strips as a hardcover book. I purchased an autographed copy at a CHIRP Record Fair a few years back. 

For three years running, Krakow would hang out at the Milwaukee Avenue Reckless Records on Record Store Day, drawing portraits of any band you wanted for $5. I had three Hollies sketches done during those years. 

R.E.M. tribute band Shaking Through will perform a livestream concert tomorrow night, December 12, as part of the New York venue The Bowery Electric’s LivePremiere Sessions. Tickets are on demand through December 18, and 100% of the proceeds will go to the Equal Justice Initiative and to help keep The Bowery Electric open.

The Hollies have just announced they’ll embark on a fall tour across England in 2021. The band will also be onboard for the 5th Annual Flower Power Cruise in 2022 from March 28 through April 4. They’ll be joined by The Zombies, John Lodge from The Moody Blues, The Guess Who, and The Yardbirds. The Hollies canceled its U.K. and U.S. tours due to COVID-19 earlier this year

The Fest For Beatles Fans online store has Ringo Starr’s new Painting Is My Madness Too! book for sale in autographed and non-autographed versions. The former will cost you $725 and the latter goes for $110. All proceeds will benefit The Lotus Foundation.

Ringo Starr will be among the performers when Joe Walsh and Friends present the VetsAid 2020: Home For The Holidays streaming event tomorrow, starting at 5:00 p.m. Little Steven Van Zandt, Eddie Vedder, Gwen Stefani, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Willie Nelson and The Boys, Ben Harper, Jewel, Daryl Hall, Billy Bob Thornton, Blake Shelton, Brandon Flowers, and other stars will be on hand.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Birthday Boy Has A Tour In The Works

That’s Bobby in the middle, wearing a hat.

Happy Birthday to Bobby Elliott, the gentleman who started drumming for The Hollies in the early 1960s and continues to tour and record with them. To celebrate, I read a chapter in my autographed copy of his memoir It Ain’t Heavy, It’s My Story - My Life In The Hollies. The beginning of Chapter Eight finds him reflecting on “I’m Alive,” their first Number One single in the U.K. It was a classic example of the group’s steady beat, ringing guitars, and exquisite harmonies.

“It was fantastic, of course it was,” Elliott writes. “We were happy and proud, as were our families. But the pace of our lives was such that there was barely time to stop and blink. We were on a non-stop merry-go-round of TV and radio shows, magazine photo shoots and live appearances.”

As I mentioned above, Elliott is still active with The Hollies, and they just announced today they have a fall tour planned for England in 2021. The band canceled its U.K. and U.S. tours due to COVID-19 earlier this year, breaking the hearts of American fans who were getting their first chance to see them since 2002. No word yet on whether The Hollies have new plans to visit the States.

In the meantime, I’ve been loving all the The Hollies fan sites on Instagram. It’s amazing the photos and art these people are posting, and they never seem to run out of material. Now if only The Hollies would get their online store up and running, so loyal fans could load up on merchandise. Elliott and the lads could learn a few lessons on marketing from the official websites of The Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Zombies.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Saturday Slumgullion

The December issue of the Illinois Entertainer, with The Smashing Pumpkins on the cover, is now up on the publication’s website. It also features Tom Lanham’s interview with Don McLean; Lori Vernon’s preview of Wonder Woman 1984; album reviews of 50th Anniversary editions from Paul McCartney and Creedence Clearwater Revival; and Steel Wheels Live by The Rolling Stones.

That issue of the Illinois Entertainer also mentions some recent or soon-to-be released high-profile albums. Kicking things off is No Fun Mondays, the collection of cover songs Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day recorded during the pandemic. Tracks include “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tommy James And The Shondells; “Manic Monday” by The Bangles; “That Thing You Do” by The Wonders; “Kids In America” by Kim Wilde; “Gimme Some Truth” by John Lennon; and “Police On My Back” by The Equals. The White Stripes Greatest Hits is now available; as is the Joan Of Arc finale Tim Melina Theo Bobby. December 11 will see the release of the double live album What To Look For In Summer by Belle and Sebastian; Styles We Paid For by Guided By Voices; and McCartney III by Paul McCartney.

Like many music venues caught up in this COVID-19 crisis, Hey Nonny in Arlington Heights is searching for ways to bring in money while being temporarily closed. In addition to merchandise and gift cards that can be redeemed later, Hey Nonny is asking frequent customers to become official members. For an annual fee of $100, those who sign up get a Nonny Club t-shirt designed by critically acclaimed musician/artist Jon Langford, first crack at tickets, invitations to members-only events, and free admission to a few shows. Considering that Hey Nonny has booked some of the Chicago area’s best local acts (Jon Langford, The Bad Examples, The 45, EXPO ’76, Tommi Zender, Amazing Heeby Jeebies, Spies Who Surf, Dag Juhlin, Steve Dawson and Diane Christiansen, Rachel Drew, etc.), I was happy to become a member.

Be sure to check in with your favorite club and see what you can do to help out. For example, Hideout Inn, one of Chicago’s best-known music venues, is raising funds by selling ornaments, t-shirts and a 25th Anniversary Calendar featuring artists Kathleen Judge, Steve Walters, Jay Ryan, Jon Langford Dan Black, Alana Bailey, and others.

Episode Two of the CIVLIZATION streaming series took place last night, featuring Wild Earp and The Free For Alls, Frank Catalano, and Talsounds. In addition to giving music fans the opportunity to enjoy shows, the series aims to cast a spotlight on the CIVL Emergency Relief Fund. Working in conjunction with the Giving Back Fund, CIVL supports Chicago artists and venues. Donations are being accepted at the CIVL website.

Chicago Cubs announcer Len Kasper has decided to quit after 16 years and move across town to cover White Sox games. Kasper, an accomplished musician who’s performed at the annual Hot Stove Cool Music fundraising event, also announced he’s leaving his band The 45 and joining Sunshine Boys. I made up that part about switching bands.

BBC Radio 4 will be celebrating the life and work of Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and Rutles musican/Monty Python collaborator Neil Innes throughout December. The Monty Python Official Instagram page promises there will be new and archival interviews with Python members. One of my many fond memories of attending The Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago was meeting Neil Innes and getting his autograph. After I told him I performed with a local comedy group, he replied, “Good luck with your comedy. Put a smile on the world’s face.”

WXRT DJ Richard Milne mentioned on his morning show yesterday that the station will mark its 50th Anniversary two years from now. As he thanked listeners for their loyalty throughout that span, I thought about how long I’ve been listening, and it’s pretty close to 50 years. Amazing to think it’s been that long. I remember when WXRT was only on from midnight to dawn. On this morning’s edition of Saturday Morning Flashback, WXRT DJ Frank E. Lee was playing tunes from 1984 and recalling his days of spinning vinyl at the Erik The Red’s bar and shopping at the Wax Trax record store.

Sandra-Lee Phipps, a photographer R.E.M. describes as “our good friend since the dawn of time,” is currently having her annual print sale. Large custom-printed editions of her photos of the band in its early days are $450 after a $50 discount, and small prints are $250 after a $50 discount. For each print sold before December 7, $10 will be donated to Fair Fight Georgia, an organization devote to ensuring honest election standards in the state.


Seeing the recent announcement that Record Store Day 2021 will be held on June 12 fills me with happy images of a time when, freed from the restrictions/afflictions of COVID-19, we’ll be standing outside our favorite record stores on a bright summer morning waiting to purchase vinyl treasures. Later in the day, some record stores will have live performers and we’ll watch those shows together, catching up with old friends between sets. Will it all be possible by then? I’m afraid to guarantee it. Maybe if in the meantime we follow the rules — wear masks, social distance and get the vaccine once it’s approved. Stay safe, healthy and sane, everyone.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

A Post Of Christmas Christmas Past

Throughout December, I’m hoping to offer several posts about rock and roll holiday music. Some will be brand new posts, while others will be reposts from previous years. Here’s a review that first appeared on Broken Hearted Toy in December, 2009.

Back in 1993, the release of a holiday album featuring The dBs and Big Star had visions of catchy songs dancing in the heads of power pop fans. Christmas Time by Chris Stamey And Friends not only delivered the gifts, it had the feel of an old-fashioned variety show.

Host Chris Stamey, a founding member of The dB’s, kicked things off with the band on their impossibly catchy “Christmas Time.” If you’re into making your own holiday playlists, this is a perfect tune to pair with The Idea’s “It’s About That Time” from the Yuletunes compilation. 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 spirited romance of “You’re What I Want For Christmas.” Harrington also entertained with her own festive song, “Sha La La.”

Big Star checked in with an original rocking hymn called “Jesus Christ,” and founder Alex Chilton offered a cozy acoustic version of “The Christmas Song.” Vocalist-guitarist Peter Holsapple of The dB’s (and later a touring member of R.E.M.) served up a simple but beautiful “O Holy Night” while acoustic guitarist Brent Lambert’s “Silent Nocturne” was an engaging instrumental take on “Silent Night.” Brent Lambert and Kirsten Lambert performed a low-key but engaging “Silver Bells,” and singer Syd Straw handed out holiday puns with her rendition of “(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear.”

The dB’s sounded like they were having a blast during the recording of this CD, especially on the high-speed “Holiday Spirit” and a totally loopy “Feliz Navidad.” In 2006, an expanded version of Christmas Time was released, with additional tracks from Don Dixon, Marshall Crenshaw, and other artists.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020


Smashing Pumpkins are scheduled to appear on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon this evening. Most likely, they’ll perform songs from their brand new double album Cyr, including the driving, techno-oriented title track. 

After the recent box office success of biopics Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, it’s no surprise at least three new films about rock musicians are coming our way.

Stardust features actor-musician Johnny Flynn as a young David Bowie encountering disinterested Americans prior to his hitting the big time. Reviews have not been kind, and from what I’ve read, the creators of Stardust weren’t given permission to use any of Bowie’s songs. I’d much rather see an animated movie based on the graphic novel Bowie - Stardust, Rayguns and Moonage Daydreams created by Michael Allred, Steve Horton, and Laura Allred.

Access to hit songs probably won’t be a problem for the Heart biopic being created by musician-actress Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and Portlandia fame. Ann Wilson already sounds excited about the project. Anyone who’s read Ann and Nancy Wilson’s Kicking and Dreaming - A Story Of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll book knows there’s plenty of material in their career for a fascinating movie.

Director Julien Temple’s Crock Of Gold is a documentary about the rousing and highly influential Irish band The Pogues, with lead vocalist Shane McGowan taking center stage. According to the film’s IMDb listing, it mixes archival and family footage, with some animation thrown in as well.

Friday, November 27, 2020


Can’t wait to blast this baby on my stereo. 

In keeping with my annual tradition, I took the Metra train into downtown Chicago this morning so I could be waiting outside Reckless Records the moment they opened. I was able to purchase five of the six choices on my Black Friday Record Store Day wish list, with only the seven-inch single “Beatles Vs. Stones” by Los Straitjackets being MIA. So, the latest additions to my vinyl collection are: U2’s 40th Anniversary Edition of Boy; Fountains Of Wayne’s Welcome Interstate Managers; The Bangles’ Doll Revolution; George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” seven-inch single, and The Vince Guaraldi Trio’s “Christmas Time Is Here” seven-inch single. The staff at Reckless was once again friendly and efficient, though a little more cautious now that COVID-19 has surged again.

Episode One of the Chicago Independent Venue League’s CIVLIZATION virtual concert series kicked off tonight at 8:00 p.m. with performances by local acts Dos Santos, Beats y Bateria, Half Gringa and ÉSSO. In addition to giving music fans the opportunity to enjoy shows, the series aims to cast a spotlight on the CIVL Emergency Relief Fund. Working in conjunction with the Giving Back Fund, CIVL supports Chicago artists and venues. Donations are being accepted at the CIVL website.

The Chicago venue Metro has a decades-long reputation for booking some of rock and roll’s best and ground-breaking acts. I interviewed vocalist-guitarist Jimme O’Neill from The Silencers there for the Illinois Entertainer in 1987, and caught shows by The Hoodoo Gurus, Material Issue, The 360s, The Bad Examples, and several other acts. Metro has just launched a special sale at its online store with an intriguing Facebook post that reads, “The vault is open. Curious as to what’s been hiding in the haunted fourth floor all these years? We’ve got you covered for t-shirts, hoodies, posters, and bundles! Keep an eye out for more drops as we go deeper.”  Right now, visitors to the site will find Metro and Smart Bar t-shirts, gig posters, and accessories. I saw Metro’s impressive 30th Anniversary exhibition of gig posters a while back, so as these drops continue, things could get very interesting.

The virtual Black Harvest Film Festival wraps on Monday, November 30 with a tribute Chadwick Boseman. All of the Festival’s films are streaming via the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Here are a few websites I could have included in the Rock And Roll Holiday Gift Guide I posted yesterday: The Beatles Store website  has clothing, holiday items, toys, and recorded music. Actor David Tennant’s official website has t-shirts, mugs, and tote bags related to his performance as the 10th Doctor on the long-running BBC sci-fi program Doctor Who.

If you’re looking for rock and roll biographies for gifts, check out Bobby Elliott’s It Ain’t Heavy, It’s My Story - My Life In The Hollies; and Remain In Love - Talking Heads - Tom Tom Club - Tina by Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz. Another suggestion would be Harold Bronson’s My British Invasion, which features the Rhino Records cofounder interviewing members of The Yardbirds, The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, The Troggs, and other UK groups.

While roaming downtown this morning, I picked up a copy of The Reader even though I have a subscription to it. The long-running Chicago free weekly paper is embarking on a new direction, and is looking for donations to help it stay afloat in these troubled times. I’ve donated to The Reader a few times in the past year, and was happy to do so again just now.

I also picked up the November issue of the Chicago free monthly magazine Newcity, which features its annual Best Of Chicago list. For 2020, the emphasis is on the Black community, and the issue was guest edited by sports journalist Robert “Scoop” Jackson and poet Tara Betts.

Graham Nash, Elvis Costello, Angelique Kidjo, Sting, Jim James, Kesha, and the Brooklyn Youth Choir will perform when the David Lynch Foundation presents Meditate America on December 3. Katy Perry, Hugh Jackman, Debora Lee Furness, Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, and Jennifer Ashton, MD will serve as hosts. The free virtual event aims to raise awareness of transcendental meditation, which is believed to help control stress and lessen the risks of stroke, heart disease, and depression. Viewers are encouraged to donate.

CoCo and Blu, a hip and classy cafe in Arlington Heights, has a Christkindlmarket going that will run through December 23. The venue promises, “Fabulous Holiday Mug Keepsakes, Shopping, Food Cocktails, and Coffee Creations.”

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Annual Rock and Roll Gift Guide

This seven-inch single by George Harrison will be available tomorrow only.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who reads my blog. Even if you’re not located in the U.S., it’s never a bad idea to take a few moments to consider the things you’re grateful for. Even in 2020.

It’s also the time of year when indie newspapers and major publications offer holiday gift guides. Their choices usually align with their readership, and highlight unique items you might want for yourself or to give someone. Options range from brick and mortar stores to websites. The goal is to find something that’s a cut above the usual necktie or a box of candy. With that in mind, here’s the somewhat annual (I’ve missed a few years) Broken Hearted Toy Rock And Roll Holiday Gift Guide.

For the vinyl fanatics in your life, choose from the limited-edition releases coming to record stores tomorrow only for Black Friday Record Store Day. It’s not as massive as the April version, but there are lots of choices in every imaginable genre. Black Friday Record Store Day is still on for 2020, but you should check with your local record store to see if it’s participating. The official RSD site has a very helpful Store Status spreadsheet with state-by-state listings of which stores will be open to foot traffic; offering curbside pickup; local delivery; online sales with shipping; or appointment shopping.

The Retro Rockstar and Lemon Music Store websites are definitely worth a look for anyone into the current music scene in Manchester, England. Both focus on acts like Oasis, Happy Mondays, Joy Division, and The Smiths, with merchandise that’s truly unique.


The Fest For Beatles Fans online shop offers a massive selection of Beatles group and solo recordings, books, t-shirts, toys, and all kinds of other merchandise.

For fans of clever, heartfelt, and at times frightening YA paranormal novels, I recommend the works of author Maureen Johnson. I just finished The Name Of The Star, which is the first of four books in her Shades Of London series. I previously enjoyed her Truly Devious trilogy.

The Winter Made In Chicago Market takes place in virtual format on December 5, with shoppers joining via Instagram. A half-page ad in yesterday’s Chicago Sun-Times promises visitors can connect with local artists and get special deals and giveaways. 

Don’t forget to support local bands, music venues, and restaurants when choosing gifts. With a resurgence of COVID-19, there aren’t many options for live entertainment, so check out Bandcamp, as well as individual websites to download music, order a CD, vinyl record, t-shirt, poster, or button. 

Support restaurants and cafes by purchasing gift cards now to use when things are back to normal. Have dinners delivered to your home or those of friends or relatives.

The Chicago Independent Venue League (CIVL) website has several gifts options, and the proceeds go to support local musicians and the places where they perform. You can make a straight-up donation or purchase t-shirts and prints to help the cause.

Most websites for popular recording artists have online shops. Just the other day, I bought over $50 worth of stuff from The Smithereens website, including a customized COVID-19 mask, a retro t-shirt celebrating the band’s 40th Anniversary, and a CD by The BAR, a power pop trio featuring Smithereens guitarist Jim Babjak, along with Danny Adlerman and Kurt Reil from The Grip Weeds.

The Rolling Stones’ No. 9 Carnaby store is now open in London, and fans can also order clothing and memorabilia online. 

The official website for The Doors offers the new Morrison Hotel graphic novel, which combines Leah Moore’s writing with a global selection of illustrators.  

Rolling Stone: The Illustrated Portraits book taps into the iconic magazine’s long history of rock star, celebrity, and politician illustrations.

The Franklin Mint has a massive selection of miniature, authentic replicas of the guitars used by Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Brian May, Jerry Garcia, Prince, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, and many other famous musicians. The selection is unbelievable—think of one of those display boxes of Matchbox cars at Mariano’s grocery stores, but filled with really cool little guitars instead.

Actually, Matchbox cars make good stocking stuffers as well. I’m guessing younger kids prefer the more cartoonish vehicles while older collectors go for vintage sports cars like Mustangs and Stingrays. There are also TV, movie, and rock band cars.

As noted in a recent article by Chicago Sun-Times business and labor reporter David Roeder, there’s a new campaign called Black Shop Friday that encourages Chicagoans to support Black-owned businesses. The website provides informations about stores, salons, art galleries, restaurants, and gift shops.

Record label websites like Bloodshot, Yep Roc, Mega Dodo, American Laundromat, Kool Kat Musik; and Fruits de Mer are always worth shopping, and The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame website has lots of inductee and exhibit memorabilia. Pledge Music, Go Fund Me, Indiegogo, and other crowd funding sites are a good way to support your favorite artists and pick up autographed items. And you never know what rare treasures you’ll discover on eBay.

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