Ok, maybe none of you bastards care about this, but you may find it interesting anyway.  Leon Fleisher died of cancer two days ago at age 83.  By age 30, maybe earlier, he was arguably the best pianist the U.S. has ever produced if you consider overall musicianship as well as technical perfection (he had both, but others have equaled or come close in the latter).  As a pupil of Artur Schnabel, he was in a direct student/teacher line to Beethoven.

Unfortunately the 1950’s, when he came of age, was a real pressure cooker for a group of young American pianists who were given the acronym, OYAPS (Outstaning Young American Pianists).  This was the height of the cold war, and there was huge pressure on them to be cultural ambassadors.  They were expected to be powerful and precise,  like Vladimir Horowitz, and to show uppity Europeans and especially Russia, a land of super-human pianists, that the U.S. was artistically on par with anyone (never mind we’d already proved that with jazz and emerging rock & roll, but those were treated as an embarrassent).  As a result,  Fleisher and the other OYAPS pushed themselves to the point of serious physical injury or emotional distress.  By his mid-thirties, Fleisher’s right hand was useless for the piano due to an insane practice and performance schedule.   After recovering from serious depression, he had a second career as a conductor, a much idolized teacher and an occasional performer of the limited one-handed repertoire.  Miraculously, in the 90’s he underwent experimental botox injections which returned his hand to service.  By the early 2000’s he was back in action, maybe not as much of a techincal powerhouse, but as good or maybe better artistically.

I was lucky to see him in a stunning recital in ’09.  I also got to meet him briefly and get an autograph.  For someone so lionized, he was very approachable and seemed down-to-earth.  Resquiescat in pace.


Mea Culpa

Maybe it’s due to COVID or an orange troll (or both), but I’ve been enjoying these guys lately.  One of my biggest problems with them was the relentless gloom and doom.  They always struck me as Iggy Pop’s The Idiot (probably one of my top 5 favorite albums) without the humor, with a bit too much Jim Morrison for my taste.  But those are persnickety reasons to reject a band, and they are perfect for these times.  Anyway, take away the clinical depression, and you’re pretty much just left with U2, only with (in my opinion) more interesting musicians and a technically worse but more interesting (and less pretentious) singer.  Not really fair to judge them for being who they were.  I  still think Ian Curtis had an under-developed melodic sense, but for some reason it all works.

The Jam at the 100 Club

For whatever reason (ignorance or senility) , I don’t recall ever seeing this clip of The Jam at their ’77 peak.  It’s from the German  Punk in London documentary.  The whole documentary is available here,  but I have a feeling this Jam performance is the highlight.  Although some heavyweights are interviewed, the performance segments are mostly B-listers.

Goofy TV Gigs

I completely missed this one when it aired.  I don’t remember hearing about it at all.  A little sad, by ’79 the Ramones should have been too big for the Sha Na Na show.

But I did happen to be watching the tube in ’68 when psychedelic proto-punks The Seeds (as The Warts) mimed their biggest hit, the classic pushy-girlfriend-fuck-off song, “Pushin’ to Hard” on a now-forgotten sitcom called The Mothers-in-Law.  I bought the album soon after.  Oddly enough, that album had been released two years earlier, and they’d released another since, but they were still pushin’ this song on TV.  The second verse and guitar break were edited out.

Uh, wild thing, uh, I think I love you…

This novelty single actually reached #20 on the charts, according to Wikipedia.  I remember hearing it on AM radio very often when it was first released, so it might have charted higher in some areas.  It was taken out of rotation after his assassination.

Forgotten Proto-Punk Standard

Like “Louie Louie,” “Hey Joe,” and “Wild Thing,” this song was covered many times.  As far as I know it was never a big hit, but it should have been.  I’d be hard pressed to pick which of these three is best, so I posted them all.  The versions by Them and The Troggs come with each band’s usual strengths.  The Haunted’s version is a raw gem (I don’t know anything about them past this song).  There are numerous other 60’s versions, including one by the MC5.   To my ears, none are competetive with the three above.   Richard Hell  also covered it later, but I hear nothing special in it.

If you haven’t heard this song but it sounds familiar, that might be because Beck lifted the main riff for Devil’s Haircut.

New Passenger Video

So after 40+ years, here’s an official video for “The Passenger.”  Not sure why this is happening now.  Was someone clamoring for an official release?  Do some people keep tabs on which great songs lack official videos?  Who knows, but it’s a great song and the video’s good.

Jaan Pehechan Ho

They played this song in the trailer for Ghost World, which was a total fake-out because the tone here doesn’t exactly scream “Steve Buscemi vehicle.” I’m still mad.

Your lyrics, in case you missed any words:

जान-पहचान हो, जीना आसान हो
जान-पहचान हो, जीना आसान हो
दिल को चुराने वालो आँख न चुराओ
नाम तो बताओ
जान-पहचान हो, हो। हो, जीना आसान हो
आहा, जान-पहचान हो, जीना आसान हो
दिल को चुरानेवालो आँख न चुराओ
नाम तो बताओ
जान-पहचान हो, जीना आसान हो

And Now For Something Completely Obscure

Electronic pop duo Silver Apples released their first album in ’68.  I believe that makes them the first ever electronic pop band, predating Can, Kraftwerk, et al.  If any of you bastards know of someone prior to these guys, please clue me in.  They sold very few albums, but one somehow ended up in my house in the mid 70’s.  Ignorant that they predated Kraftwerk, I pretty much dismissed them because I didn’t like the songs very much.  They typically set up good initial ideas but, in my opnion, are let down by the singing and trippy lyrics, which creep me out for some reason.   But the electronic sounds are innovative and excellent.  Those sounds come from “The Simeon,” a primitive, homemade synth built by singer Simeon Coxe, an Alabaman.  He was just stringing together old WWII oscillators and claims that at the time  he’d never heard of Moogs or other synthesizers in develpoment.

Silver Apples’ legacy is hard to pin down.  Some 90’s experimental bands have cited them as an influence, but what about the electronic innovators of the 70’s?  You never heard a word about these guys back then, so did they influence Krautrock, Eno, Devo, prog rockers, or just work in a vacuum?  Who knows, but I can’t help but love their oddball creativity.  Very much in the tradition of American cranks innovating alone in the basement or garage.  But overall they show that first usually isn’t best.

Here is their full story, which is very interesting.  If you want to hear more, below is the entire first album and one song, “You and I”, from their second and final album, which was withdrawn soon after release.  The opening of “You and I” is suspiciously like “Station To Station,” but  I have no idea if Bowie was familiar with it.  The whole second album, which I haven’t heard,  is also on YouTube.

RIP, Dave Greenfield

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, but just now getting around to it.  If you hadn’t heard, COVID-19 recently claimed Dave Greenfield, the keyboardist of The Stranglers, a decent first-wave band overshadowed by the great ones.  To me their work is more interesting than good,  but I give them credit for riding the wave at all.  They were at least different, and very competent musically.  Most importantly, when The Ramones and The Sex Pistols drew the line, these guys stepped on the correct side, unlike most.  I haven’t heard all of them, but my favorite is their overly-long cover of Burt Bacharach’s Walk On By .  Which I guess is another way of saying they needed more hooks.