Sunday, April 29, 2012

seeing janey street in concert

The Janey Street concert was tonight. I blogged about it a few weeks ago.

Before I went, my wife asked me if I was expecting to enjoy it, or if I'd be dissapointed. She was referring to a phenomenon I've noted, that, well, things change. I alluded to it when I posted some thoughts about a Ducks Deluxe reunion. When Street's first album came out, it spoke to me, and I became a fan. While I am still a fan, I am aware that her msuic has changed. So, given that, would I enjoy seeing this musician perform, or would I be dissapointed for it reflecting where she is now, rather than where she was when I became a fan?

I said I'd enjoy it. And I hoped that I'd be right, even if I wasn't 100% sure.

I'm glad to say that was right. This performance was more fun than I thought it would be. Hell, it was more fun than I had dared hope it would be.

Janey didn't do any songs from that first solo album -- the one that had meant so much to me. "There Ain't No Angels in the Sky"? "Me And My Friends"? "In My Mind"? Not there. Janey was emphasizing the material on her more-recent CD, The Street Less Traveled as well as her collection of demos, Outtakes. Both albums are available on her website.

The following video gives a good idea of her contemporary performances:

I should note, though, that she was accompanied by Tom Murphy (guitar) and Dennis Pereca (keyboards). Murphy, had never played with her before, and did an amazing job of improvising leads that fit with the melodies of her songs. Pereca is her old songwriting and performing partner. I wasn't aware of this before tonight, but Janey and Dennis had done a couple of albums in the seventies -- under the name "Janey and Dennis."

This performance gave me a better appreciation for Janey's newer bluesier material, and I fully enjoyed it. I would go see her again if the opportunity presents itself. I think my favorite was "He Just Does" (as in "I don't know why he loves me / He just does."), which presents a happy view of relationships.

After two sets, separated by a brief intermission, Jany relinquished the stage so that members of the audience could perform some of their own songs. This was, afterall, a group of songwriters. That was followed by an impromptu mini-set of Janey, Dennis, and a few of the others doing Beatles's songs.

In my next post (unless something earth-shattering happens, r I just feel like writing about something else instead), I'll talk a little about the other songwriters who were there.

Friday, April 27, 2012

fruit fly

A friend on Facebook posted this video:

It's from the movie, Fruit Fly, a movie musical dealing with ethnic and sexual politics in the arts community in San Francisco. In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that H.P. Mendoza, who wrote and directed the movie, is a friend of mine (his boyfriend and my wife have been friends for something like 25 years). My favorite aspect is the music. In case you're interested, the movie is (for a limited time) showing for free on Hulu. Go here.

Following are a couple more videos of songs from Fruit Fly:

I'm sorry I couldn't find a video for one of my favorite songs. In "Like This," Bethesda describes her performance art show to Windham. It has a very Gilbert and Sullivan feel to it. I assume Mendoza is aware of that, but I have to wonder if he purposely set out to copy G&S's style, or if it just shook out that way.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

tatiana moroz at a libertarian convention

I was at the New York Libertarian Party convention last weekend. Not what one would usually think of as a great place for music. But there was music there, and it was unexpectedly good.

The singer was a woman named Tatiana Moroz. I'd never heard of her before, though I gather that if I spent more time at Libertarian functions, I might have. As you can see from her website, Moroz is big on Libertarian politics.

As to the music, Moroz did a short four-song set, consisting of two original songs, a Bob Dylan cover ("Masters of War"), and a medley of "Greensleeves" and "A Home in the Meadow."

The performance was understated -- Just Moroz and her guitar. And I saw nothing fancy in her playing. It was pretty much standard strumming. But that voice. She sounds like a songbird. It was wonderful. I'm glad to have seen and heard her.

I bought her album, Tatiana (which for anyone interested is available from her web site). It's twelve original songs. The arrangements are more full than what we got at the convention (where, as I said, it was just Tatiana and her guitar). At times she sounds like a folkie, and at times she's adult contemporary. Sometimes she rocks a bit. The disc is well worth the price.

Here's a video of Moroz doing another Dylan cover, "Make You Feel My Love":

For what it's worth, I am not a big L libertarian, although my political thinking is strongly informed by libertarian philosophy.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

i didn't see the basher

Nick Lowe performed in New York tonight. I didn't go. The cheap tickets were $50. The good seats were $65.

Nick Lowe is one of my favorite singers. The first concert I ever went to was Nick Lowe. Technically it was Tom Petty, and Nick Lowe was the opening act. But I went to see Nick, and left when Petty took the stage. That was at the Nassau Colliseum, and he was promoting The Abominable Showman. Since then I saw Nick perform at the Ritz when he was supporting The Rose of England. I was in college and reviewed that concert for the campus newspaper. I also saw Nick as part of Little Village, supporting that band's dissapointing eponymous album.

But I haven't seen Nick in concert during this, the old crooner phase of his career, since he reinvented himself. He's come to New York a few times, and every time there's some reason or other that I don't make it to the show. And each time, I wonder if I was foolish for not going. At Nick's age, and at this stage of his career, and his having abused his body as much as he has, each tour could be the last.

But this time the tickets just seemed pricier than I wanted to pay. And maybe it's just as well since I was too tired today to enjoy a concert.

And still...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

on posting frequency

When I began this blog, my goal was to post every day. Well, that hasn't happened. Unfortunately, I simply don't have the time and energy for that aggressive a schedule. I will do what I can. Hopefully I won't get too light...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

a nice coincidence

A few posts ago, I wrote about Janey Street. She'll be performing a house concert at the end of the month. Bear in mind that I haven't seen her name in the media for years (unless you count things like Youtube or CDBaby, when I purposely looked her up).

So, less than a week after I got the invite to her house concert, I am looking through the Queens Tribune, a weekly newspaper in Queens. There's a teaser on the cover about Janis Ian coming to give her first performance in Queens. Inside I see there's an interview with her. Instead of reading from the beginning of the article, I started in the middle, with the question: "How do you feel about performing in Queens?" In her response, she said that "my best friend Janey Street is from Flushing; we used to meet under the clock all the time."

By the way, I note that that bit about meeting under the clock was a nice tip of the hat to Janey's single, "Under the Clock."

Nice coincidence.

Friday, April 13, 2012

amusing post on reddit

I find this kind of amusing.

Somebody posted on Reddit, that he had just learned about Nick Lowe naming a record Bowi in response to David Bowie naming an album Low.

Fine. there were lots of responses from people praising Nick Lowe, or praising David Bowie, or making some other more-or-less relevant comment.

But then it started. Someone posted the following:
David Bowie used incredibly prolific and meaningful career.
It's super-effective.
Nick Lowe is confused.
Nick Lowe hurt itself in its confusion.
Nick Lowe is irrelevant.
I'm puzzled by the fact the poster felt the need to present this comment with one sentence per line. It almost appears as poetry. But the meaning, which can summed up as "Bowie is great. Lowe isn't," is quite clear. And the debate ensued, with people arguing about Nick Lowe's place in rock and roll history.

You know, way back when I cared about baseball I liked Jerry Koosman. He was a good pitcher. But he was no Tom Seaver.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

billy bremner. new album imminent. yawn.

I've gotten a couple of emails over the last couple of days from a Billy Bremner yahoo group, indicating that Bremner has a new solo album coming out soon.

I honestly wish I cared more about it. Bremner was a member of Rockpile, one of my favorite bands. Though on the other hand he wasn't the driving force, creatively, of the band. That role fell on Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe. He did, I'll admit, lend killer vocals to a couple tracks on the band's album, Seconds of Pleasure. (As an aside, I'll never know for sure, but I'll bet the album title originated with someone's joke about someone else's sexual stamina.) But his solo work has been less than thrilling for me.

It started off reasonably well. The first single of his that I heard (though it was the second one released) was 1982's "Meek Power" b/w "Yes Please!" That was a great single. Pure power pop, that was easily the match of the best Rockpile had ever done. But he did other singles around that time, and none of them were up to that energy. "The Price is Right" came close. And "Laughter Turns to Tears" was a really good single, though it was much mellower than I was expecting. You can hear it here:
I'm not saying his output was bad. It just wasn't what I wanted, or what I had hoped for from a member of Rockpile. Of course, it made sense that his own style was not the same as the group's.

At any rate, I bought his first solo album, Bash!, as soon as it came out. It disappointed me. Stylistically, it was much more like his singles (and I don't mean that lorious first one I had heard) than like his former band. Fortunately, when it was rereleased decades later, they added most of the tracks from those initial singles, including both "Meek Power" and "Yes Please!"

When his second solo album, A Good Week's Work, came out 15 or so years later, I bought it right away and was even more disappointed. The music sounded OK, but was formulaic and nothing caught my interest -- it sounded like so many albums I've heard by broken-up and reunited bands that I've heard. The hooks are there, and I can't point to any specific thing wrong, except it doesn't grab me. 

When the third solo album, No Ifs, Buts, Maybes, came out about five years ago, I didn't bother buying it. I've listened to those samples on Amazon, and it sounds like it's better than the second album. But something holds me back.

So now, another album is coming out soon. I just don't know. I'll probably listen to samples on Amazon and then make a decision. Or not.

At any rate, this is how I like to remember Billy:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

i want to title this with a bad pun using the word "street," but i can't come up with the right one

I got an invitation to a house concert at the end of this month. Not big news in and of itself, except that the performer will be Janey Street. To most people that might not mean anything. "Janey who?" But to me...

It was my sophomore year of college, and I was the music editor for a campus newspaper. One of the review albums I received from Arista Records was Heroes, Angels and Friends, the debut album by Janey Street. I still remember the letter from the publicist -- it noted that Janey was a Queens native (which was a tie-in because I was at Queens College).

I loved that album from the first spin. There was no getting-to-know-you period, or it-has-to-grow-on-you phase. This was a consciousness-changing reaction I had. I've only reacted that way to records a handful of times at most. Dave Edmunds' D.E. 7th and the Beat Farmers' Tales of the New West are the only ones that readilly come to mind.

I haven't heard the record in quite a while, but I still can remember lyrics (forgive me if I make a mistake -- this is from memory):

From "Say Hello to Ronnie":
Say hello to Ronnie.
Send my love to Sue.
Give my best to Bobby.
And here's a kiss for you.
I'm working on the night shift.
I need to survive.
Living from day to day
Keeping my dreams alive.
From "Jimmy (Lives in the House Down the Street)":
Jimmy lives in the house down the street
He's got a smile and a hold on me (yeah)
Jimmy's got a girl for each day of the week.
I know he's kissing them. Why not me?
Street's songs reminded me of Springsteen, in that she sang of ordinary blue-collar folks and their lives, coaxing drama out of the humdrum. Her songs did show more optimism than Springsteen's, and her music didn;t quite have the same power as his. But I saw her as a female Springsteen. It also didn't hurt that I developed a bit of a fanboy crush on her.

There was a single, "Under the Clock," that dented the Billboard charts, and a video:

I was a little surprised at the choice, since I thought "Under the Clock" was the weakest song on the album.

Anyway, time went by and there was no followup album.

Years later, I tried to get a copy of HA&F on CD, but couldn't find it. I tried to copy my vinyl to CD, but found a skip in one of the tracks. So I really wanted to get an official CD. I found Janey on CDBaby, as she had recorded and (I assume) self-released another album. I listened to a few samples. The music was more mature. But it didn't move me the way the first album did. I didn't buy it, but I emailed Janey through CDBaby to ask if I could somehow get the first album on CD. She wrote back, but to say that the first album wasn't on CD. Oh, and I should buy the new album. She's sure I'll like it.

So that's been that for a few years. I keep toying with the idea of copying my vinyl onto CD, but the issue of that scratch keeps holding me back.

So now I got this invitation. The natural question is how? Well, I was, for one year, a member of Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). And I still get occasional emails related to the group. Janey, at this point (in addition to performing and songwriting) does a variety of music-related jobs -- running songwriting workshops, lecturing, and working as a song evaluator for NSAI.

Well, the latest NSAI-related e-mail was a notice that she will be in New York, offering mentoring sessions for songwriters, and performing at this house concert. I don't think I'll sign up for a mentoring session, but I'll definitely go to see her perform. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

what's basic to some isn't basic to others...

My sister posted something on Facebook asking for help identifying a song. She wrote:
I'm trying to find the name of some music. It was something like second line or second verse or second something. And I think it had the name Avery in it. It is a swingy tune that is popular in New Orleans, and sounds sort of like Rock Around the Clock. Can anyone help me?
As it turns out, she was looking for something called "Joe Avery's Piece," which I haven't ever heard of. Following is a video:

I'm not sure what she was referring to when she wrote about "second line or second verse or second something." Maybe the version she heard had lyrics. At any rate, I can see why she thought of "Rock Around the Clock." There are parts of the melody that are very similar. But all that's neither here nor there.

The reason I am bringing it up is that someone suggested:
Possibly the bouncy pop tune "Henry the Eighth?" It has the lyric 'second verse, same as the first!' and was made popular in the early sixties by either The Monkees or The Turtles.
I read that and almost had a conniption. The Turtles? The Monkees? Everyone knows that I'm Henry VIII, I Am was a pop hit for Herman's Hermits. I'll also note that it was a hit in 1965 (not the early sixties), and that the above suggestion is internally inconsistent since the Monkees weren't even assembled until 1966.

But then my more rational, my more forgiving, side asserts itself. And I remember that what may be obvious to me may not be obvious to someone with a different set of interests.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I hadn't heard of "Trance" as a musical genre before last week. And when, at a Passover Seder, I asked my sister-in-law about it, I referred to it as a new form. She chuckled a little. How would I have reacted if she had laughed. I probably would have joked it away. But part of me would have thought something like "Well who the hell cares?" Similarly, the responder to my sister's post may not care as much about the Monkees, the Turtles, or Herman's Hermits.

Also, I will happily admit to the many gaps in my knowledge of pop music. I know what I know, and not  what I don't. One of the reasons I didn't ultimately pursue a career in music journalism was that I didn't want to have to know all the things one should know in that field. But that's a story for another post.

Before I leave you with a a video of Herman's Hermits doing "...Henry..." I just want to note that I was very pleased that my sister knew it wasn't a Monkees song.

Friday, April 6, 2012


I learned something new today.

Going through the CDs I got on Freecycle, I came across several various artists compilations with the word "Trance" in the title.  Eventually I realized (and my sister-in-law confirmed), that "Trance" is a genre of music. Of course, I am behind the times, having now learned the Trance developed in the 1990s,so it's not exactly new.

At any rate, I don't like it. I find the sound annoying, and vaguely discomforting. Listening to it, I envision a club full of twenty-somethings doing ecstacy. Alternatively, it reminds me of any number of stores I've been in -- record stores, trendy clothing stores, skateboard shops -- that play the music in the background because studies have shown that people listening to it will buy more stuff.

In case anyone reading this (assuming there is someone reading this) isn't familiar with the music, and wants to get an idea, here's a video that should help.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


OK, I'm disappointed.

Going through the haul of CDs I got on Freecylce, I came across one by a band called "Bumpin' Uglies."

I really really really wanted to like it, since "bumping uglies" is my second-favorite euphemism for sex. But, alas, 'twas not meant to be. The album is boring. I'm talking four-hour-history-lecture boring. Gone, it is.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

time to try selling

Well, I got the 2012 edition of the Songwriter's Market. This makes three years in a row that I bought it. Maybe this year I'll get around to putting together disks of demos and sending them to music publishers or record companies.

Part of the reason I haven't done so in the past is that I haven't had a whole lot of material to send. Generally, the places listed in there indicate how many demos that want you to send. And it's usually more than one. Right now, I have three demos that I can send -- which is more than I had last year at this time. But of those, only one is really fully produced.

"Jackpot" is a fully produced demo, recorded by County Q, a studio in Nashville. It's the kind of thing that, if you heard it playing on a C&W radio station it wouldn't seem out of place. "Music No One Else Can Hear" is a much less elaborate recording. My friend, Scott Milner, recorded it for an album he did with his brothers, collectively called The Milner Brothers. They included it on their album, Haven't Lost a Thing. So the production value is good, but very simple. "Do You Think of Me (Now and Again)" is a rough demo. There's no way around that fact. Scott recorded it in 2010. I think I can justify the simple mix in that it's a slow song that doesn't require a full arrangement, and this lets the song stand on its own, without using fancy studio wizardry.

A year ago, at this time, I only had two demos to send off. I had all three recordings, but I hadn't registered the copyright on "Do You Think of Me (Now and Again)," and I'm not about to try to sell a song without first registering it with Washington. Now, I'd rather work with more than three demos, but I gotta start sending things off sometime. Then again, maybe with one or two more demos...

There is one label, Nervous Records, that I find appealing. And they are open to new (i.e., unknown) songwriters. But they specialize in psychobilly, and none of my material really fits that genre. Now, there's a song idea I've been working on and off with, that would lend itself to a psychobilly arrangement. Without going into great detail, the title is "Bleed Me a River." It arose out of an attempt to write a Louis Lamour novel in song form. And it was partially inspired by "Run the Ridges," a Kingston Trio song. Here's a video of attendees at a Kingston Trio fantasy camp performing that song (just to give you an idea:

I have almost all of "Bleed..." done, but I kind of put it aside a bit more than a year ago. I was discussing it with Scott, and he had some harsh (though not undeserved criticism of it. First, he noted that the narrator was without redeeming quality. Unlike "Run the Ridges" or "Poor Ellen Smith" (another song that inspired me to want to write a Lamour Novel-song), there is little ambiguity. He said that, as a singer, he would have a hard time getting himself to sing something so negative. Also, he noted some incorrect use of old Western jargon. Being that I grew up in New York City, and my kowledge of the old west is very limited, that makes sense. But, if we're talking about a psychobilly song, those two flaws in the song may not be fatal.

Now, of course, if I decide to go with "Bleed," I have to finish it up, polish it up, record a rough demo, register the copyright (the fact that I haven't done that explains why the title is all I'm putting in this blogpost),  and get a good demo made (which is expensive). So I have to decide if it's worth it.

But meanwhile, I really have to put together some mailing packages, and try plugging my songs. I may not get anywhere, but at least I'll know I tried

Monday, April 2, 2012

a blog devoted to bad records

My wife found a great blog.

A guy named Darryl W. Bullock blogs about the world's worst records. Like Bullock, I have an appreciation for truly awful records. But he blogs specifically about the topic. As near as I can figure, he sticks to a once-per -week schedule, and typically includes audio, so you can hear the awful songs.

Interesting for me, he discusses a lot of music that I have in my collection, though I typically have them on compilations as opposed to having the original single. That's true of Eilert Pilarm, a Swedish Elvis impersonator who doesn't have a good enough grasp of English to pull it off. Also of Congresswoman Malinda Jackson Parker (yes, she was a congresswoman -- in Liberia) who recorded two songs about mosquities. Here is one of them:
Aw, heck. While we're at it, here's a Eilert Pilarm doing "Jailhouse Rock" (with lyrics):

I also enjoyed Bullock's entry on The Buggs (a thinly disguised Beatles ripoff from the 1960s), largely because he discussed a truly awful record that I used to own on vinyl.

I love perusing Bullock's blog, and repeatedly finding myself saying, "Yeah! I remember that! I remember that!" Go give it a read.