Focus On Big Star

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of its release, host Rich Tupica compiled a two-part show on Big Star’s “No. 1 Record.” Released in 1972, by Ardent and Stax Records, it’s influenced everyone from R.E.M. and Teenage Fanclub to Beck and Wilco.

The first part, comprising only alternate takes from the LP, also includes 1972 radio interview clips with founders Alex Chilton and Andy Hummel – recorded days after the album was released. Part two of this show digs back into the roots of the Memphis band, playing only Big Star pre-cursors. Part two also features 1975 interview clips from Chris Bell, who left the band just after the LP was released.

Check it out here!

Also, can’t remember if I told you bastards or not, but I grew up on the same street as Chris Bell. Missed him by about ten years, though. They moved in ’65.

Speaking Of The War…

If the Russian army has seemed inept to you, that’s because it is.

If you’re interested, here is the best site for war information. It’s geared towards military, and its contributors are mostly data-driven soldiers or wonks. As a result, there wasn’t the usual media and government surprise about the Russians’ difficulties. As far back as November, they were pointing out the Russians’ logistical shortcomings, and this week they reported a Marine Corps University war game that, prior to the invasion, predicted very closely how it would go.

As an old Cold War brat of the 7th Army in Germany, I remember that there was no respect for the Red Army back then. They had scary bombs and large troop numbers, but our army considered them 3rd rate in all other regards. In 2022, the only thing that’s changed is that they’re much smaller. Putin’s “build-up” has been in weapons, not in building a viable army, which hasn’t attempted anything like this since their 70’s-80’s Afghanistan disaster. I don’t think this cold war will be long, because Russia won’t have the money or manpower to sustain one, or even occupy Ukraine (assuming they win). That’s not to say this won’t get very dangerous.

Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics.
-Omar Bradley

Never interfere with your enemy while he’s making a mistake.
-Napoleon

Magical Mystery Chord

Harmonics doesn’t get more fun than this chord.  I think someone’s posted an analysis here before, but I’d forgotten the details.  Randy Bachman got to listen to the individual tracks at Abbey Road;  here he is breaking it down.  Truly a band firing on all cylinders during this time, the height of their early period.

Born Fighter

Not his greatest song, but it has one of the funniest first verses I’ve ever heard and a Dave Edmunds solo (2:00) that curls what’s left of my hair.  When I searched YouTube for this song, I ran across a ’79 documentary of the same name.  Here is a clip where Lowe and Edmunds talk a bit about Phil Spector, then work on takes of that same solo.  I haven’t watched past where the solo recording ends at 15:00, so I don’t know if the rest is worth watching.  Nick Lowe seems rather, um, “relaxed.”

Word

A recent letter to the WSJ in response to a Theranos story:

I am a former biotech analyst. Several years ago, the chairman of a client company told me he had seen an interview with Elizabeth Holmes and thought she was terrific and his company would be interested in working with her. He wanted to know what I thought.

Here is what I did: I went to the Theranos website and looked at the management and board of directors. I immediately noticed two red flags: First, the lack of relevant experience in the CEO’s bio, and second, the board appeared to be decorated with famous names unrelated to Theranos’s business.

Next, I called the company and introduced myself to the person who answered the phone. I explained the reason for my call and that I would like to speak to Ms. Holmes or leave her a message. I was told that there was no mechanism by which I could do that or anyone else with whom I could speak. Red flag No. 3.

It took me 10 minutes and cost my client zero dollars. Any life-sciences analyst would have done exactly the same thing and undoubtedly reached a similar conclusion. No rocket science here. So pardon my skepticism at senior members of corporations testifying as to how much money they spent on due diligence. Perhaps it’s time for their shareholders to make a change.

Elizabeth Silverman

Prism Biomedical Research

New York

More Old Stuff

Paul Revere and The Raiders wore Minutemen uniforms, acted silly (a requirement following A Hard Day’s Night and Help), had a teen idol in singer Mark Lindsey, and perhaps suffered overexposure as the house band on the weekly pop music TV show, Happening ’68.  Earlier they were regulars on Dick Clark’s Where The Action Is, so they were all over television for a couple of years.  All that made them easy to dismiss later as tastes changed and bands were expected to dress more like hippies and act more seriously, or at least like they were on harder drugs.  That’s too bad.  They were a great band, and the proof is in the grooves. There’s the Stonesy song posted above.  Just Like Me ,  Steppin’ Out, and Hungry are among the best 60’s garage-rock songs.  Good Thing gets more sophisticated with the Beach Boys vocal bit in the bridge, but the blistering instrumental track takes no prisoners.  They earned their chops grinding it out in the Pacific Northwest club and teen-dance circuit, and you can hear it in Good Thing (no doubt some Raiders songs employed the Wrecking Crew, but this one sounds too unhinged to be the WC).  Kicks features an unforgettable twelve-string riff, and its chorus is a textbook on how to write and produce a simple, effective hook.  There’s nothing extraneous in that chorus, it just pounds in the hook.  It also pulls the amazing stunt of being a cool anti-drug song.  Does another even exist?

The Raiders ended up sort of like Max Baer post Beverly Hillbillies: once Jethro, always Jethro.  They did manage one hit with a new beards-and-blue-jeans look, but it wasn’t any good (it’s called Indian Reservation, if you really must). Just how the ball bounces.  This decade’s stars, next decade’s has-beens.

Speaking of Singing Families…

I’ll one-up the Osmonds with the Cowsills, who could be very good.  The real-life inspiration for the Partridge Family series (and the Osmonds too, I’d guess), they were dismissed as bubble-gum by those who would be cool.  And they were sometimes bubble-gum, but they could also do what I’d consider advanced baroque pop as well as anyone.  No time to hunt down the hidden gems on YouTube today, but they had some very good songs (and plenty of cheese) in addition to their hits.  Below is a live-TV version of their first big hit, preceded by the studio version for reference.   Note how well they nail their vocal harmonies live.  It’s a pretty amazing feat.