Thursday, March 12, 2009

Golly McCry PART !!


my sister showed me how to tune a guitar. She said if you push down one string on the
fifth fret you get the same tone as the string below. One day she asked my brother,
if he wants to know some chords to play guitar too, but he wasnt interrested.
And I said " Here...ME... "I" want to know how to play guitar", but she said "No, your
hands and fingers are much to small to manage it right to this large guitar".
(I was 7 or 8)
I was nerving her, till she finally showed me one chord. It was E minor (you only need
2 fingers to perform it).
Everytime she wasnt around I took her guitar and exercised this chord and the tuning.
And so it came I was experimenting with chord changes and finnally a tune of my own
based on it. I dont have a recording of it, but still know it.
I heard lots of radio at that time together with my brother and we became more interrested in Beatles music. And I remember that day, we were sitting in front of the radio,
and they told John Lennon was shot dead. I couldnt believe it. I was crying the whole
night.They changed the radio program and played lots of Beatles music. It was
the first time I heard the song "Woman" by John and its still his requiem to me.
Everytime I hear it I have tears in my eyes.
Even though I liked Paul better at this time. I saw a picture of the Beatles in
a newspaper (pictures were very rare too at this time here), where they are standing
on a field (from the "Help" movie)and Paul salutes to the camera.
I tried to copy this pose of him and figured out he was playing lefthanded.
but it was good in some way and I decided to play lefthanded too. I thought its
easier to grip the chords with the right hand.
A good friend of my brother came up one day with a guitar and said "hey, I can play
the intro riff to Smoke On the Water by Deep Purple". He played it to us and as he
played I watched the moves of his fingers exactly and told him "I can play that too"
i took his guitar and played it as i seen it from him. I think he forgot the guitar
at our flat when he left that day and I used to play on it all the time.
The next time he was around he offered me to buy it for 30,- Mark, because
he never had money. And i gladly did. This was my first own acoustic guitar.
I loved it, I began to reverse the strings to play lefthanded.
So I had a guitar and I had my first standard exercise riffs. That must have been
around 1980/81. One of my standard riffs i developed to an instrumental later
called "The Message"
the YT version of course was recorded in 1999, but the roots of it are in 1981.
In 1981 my brother bought his own cassette-radio-recorder an R4100 and it had
a feature: it had an intern microphone. That leads in to a new era...

to be continued...

Saturday, February 21, 2009



The best way to present the story of a true modern musical icon--Golly McCry--is to get right to the story. I won't bore you with any sparse commentary. The story really unfolds magnificently--the detail, the motivation, his nascent musical tastes are all touched upon--as well as the musical climate of Germany in his youth. The most mindrocking questions--the angle that made me want to know more about this gentleman--what made this young guy in Germany decide to a) record his own music at home; b) record garage and surf music; and c) film his own videos a full decade before youtube made this practice common? Musical genius abounds throughout the story, as is evident in his home recordings. Golly is the R. Stevie Moore of garage music, and he will soon get the recognition that is due him.

In his own words, here is part one of


Lets begin here

I was born on April 1971 in Köthen (Germany)as the youngest of 4 children.
Köthen is a town in East-Germany formerly territory DDR (GDR).
I grew up listening to music that came from a cassette tape recorder of my oldest
sister. It included some of the mainstream music (end60s/early70s.)
So its hard to say what song brought me to music.
I dont think it was a song or album anyway.
In east germany there was only one record label for all ,called AMIGA.
They mostly released bands from east-germany or sometimes the big acts from UK/US.
I remember when I was in school, I think it was every Wednesday, I was going to
our record store, 1 hour before they opened in the afternoon to get the newest
release of... (what was it?... nobody knew). People standing over an hour in line
in front of the record store but nobody knew what album of what band was released
this week. It could be great or it could be a mess. But we bought it anyway,
nobody wanted to waste his time in vain.
The best thing you could do was listening to west germany`s radio stations, if
you wanted to hear good music. (my opinion, but that leads to a political direction
and away from the question).
I think it was more important for me that my 10 year older sister took guitar
lessons in the end 70s or early80s. And when I came home from school one day
she was playing on guitar and singing "The Circle Game" (Buffy Sainte-Marie song) I really was impressed by that. I loved
hear her play that song. I loved the sound of the guitar.
And one day she showed me how to tune a guitar, maybe I was 9 or 10 or even younger
I cant remember really and I think THAT brought me into music.

to be continued....

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Golly McCry Story Coming Up!

Youtube has been a great source of music sharing, as well as acting as a platform for performers to expose their talents to an otherwise absent audience. For the most part, these musical performances fall flat or, albeit dynamic, are tired performances of tired songs. In fact, one of the only guys who stand out from this musically vapid pack is Golly McCry.
For anyone who doesn't know about Golly yet (and any self respecting outre music fan should) here is a capsulated description: Golly has for years been recording as a one band--recording all instruments and vocals to tons of songs. Granted this is relatively common now, but there are three factors to consider.
1.He had begun doing this long before the technology of today was available. Using "primitive" equipment, Golly layed down all the tracks.
2. Golly records originals, but his major focus lies in cover songs of 60's garage tunes. Mind you, not "Little Bit o' soul" but the most obscure stuff.
3. Golly lives in Germany.

Where did he come from? How did this one man decide he wanted to recreate a sound that to most people was a minor blip on the musical radar?

I have been lucky enough to get all the details from the man himself.

Not only does he discuss his life, his interests and influences, but also he offers a worldly perspective of the music scene of Germany. What's it like growing up in Germany and being a fan of this kind of music? What is the music scene like there?

Golly gives a detailed account (in easy to read installments) of his life and his music, so please support him by checking back at this blog very soon, as well as his youtube page for pure entertainment. I will also post notices on my youtube page to let you all know what's up. Thanks a bunch and keep an eye out.

Friday, January 30, 2009


I added the flip side to the Randy Matthews 45 i posted yesterday. the link is right there. check it out.

The Charade--Australian pop Group 1969--any info?

Just stumbled on a tiny reference to an Australian pop group named The Charade. They had an LP out in 1969 and if you trust the LP cover, the group was made up of 2 guys, 1 girl.
Now the interesting thing about the LP is the track listing. Check it out--




You got a good number of Paul Williams/Roger Nichols tunes--3 from Williams early band the Holy Mackerel. Where's this LP. I found only 2 references to it online--one Australian, the other in Japanese. Nothing on Ebay, popsike, amazon. How did this slip by?

Question is--I know there must be a good number of copies of it out there (it was released on Parlaphone so it can't be that hard to get my hands on. If anyone knows where i can pick one up, i'd love to share it up here for everyone.

I'll keep my eyes open for it if you promise to do the same.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Randy Matthews & Bergen White fans only!

The best thing about spending time at the record stores, for me, is reading the labels of records i'm unfamiliar with to see any sort of connection that might give me an idea of the sound of the performer. So today i came across a 45 on Myrrh Records by Randy Matthews. I know Myrrh superficially, just as a Christian record label. And my tastes do occasionally dabble in that genre--The Young and Free LP "Goin' Somewhere" has long been one of my favorites. And i like early chuck girard and love song.

But i almost passed on the 45--until I saw the name BERGEN WHITE, who arranged and conducted the single. It's "Country Faith"/"Sunny Day" I like the sound of "Country Faith". It's pretty rocking, with a country rock feel. The flip is a little derivative of "the Weight", but it's still pretty nice.

I don't get how interconnected some of names were/are in the record business. Some names just keep popping up in the strangest places--co writers, producers, arrangers, whatever.

Well anyway, here's the mp3 link to RANDY MATTHEWS-COUNTRY FAITH. I think only 10 people can download, so i hope you get to it before it becomes disabled.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Parade rarities

I am going to attempt to compile a list and i need your help!

I want to chronicle every single or LP (or demo if we can get exhaustive) track that involves any Murray Macleod or Smokey Roberds involvement. Either/or.

They released/recorded/wrote a good number of superior tunes. I know there have to be more that Google can't help me find. I also have the feeling there are some one off singles under various monikers that are actually our two guys. (I am going to leave Jerry Riopelle out of the hunt as his musical history alone would be quite a daunting task.)

As far as format, think matthew moring complete Curt Boettcher discography, but with cover versions included.

What follows is sort of a skeletal outline of known works (at least known to me) that involve murray macleod or smokey roberds. As this list becomes more official and grows longer, i will include more info, such as date, label or any available trivia regarding the releases.
Eventually, the discography will also be in chronological order.

Davy Jones- "What are we Going to do" & "This Bouquet" (w. Macleod/Roberds/Levine)

Parade and Small Circle of Friends.

Black Sheep single "Suzanne" (w. Macleod/Roberds)released on Columbia(not sure if flip side has any involvement) 1967? Rumored that Mark Harmon was member.

Ian & Murray single "My Mary" (w. Roberds)/ "Windblown" (Roberds/Macleod/H. Capps) This Epic single was actually Roberds and Macleod as a duo. Year unknown.

Gary Lewis & the Playboys-"How Can I Thank You" (w. Roberds/Macleod) released on "Now" by Gary Lewis and the Playboys--appeared as Parade demo on the Parade compilation.

Little Pattie--"Sunshine Boy" (Female Australian singer's version of "Sunshine Girl" w.Macleod, Roberds, Riopelle)

Vicky Leandros--"Sunshine Boy" (Female Greek singer's version)

The Clique-"Soulmates" (w. Roberds/Weatherly) released as 45 and LP track.

Al Martino-"I Can See Only You"-Small Circle of Friends tune, (w. Roberds, Margolin, Nichols)1968 Capitol single.

Billy Burnette--"Frog Prince" (w. MacLeod, Roberds, Margolin, Neilds) 1969 single. Also recorded by Parade.

Freddie Allen (Smokey Roberds pseudonym)--"We've Only Just Begun/We've Only Just Begun" White Whale single. I don't know if this was ever released w/ a different B-side. first recording of this nichols/williams song.

Smokey Roberds--"Irma Jackson"/"Don and Rosemary". 45 late 60's, early 70's

ØRNULF HOLTHE-- "KVINNEN I MITT LIV" (music credited to Smokey Roberds) Norwegian release. Not sure if it a Norwegian version of an American Roberds song?

Soundtrack for "Evil Roy Slade" (Macleod, S. Margolin, Riopelle) 1972

Music Producer for film "The Glitter Dome" (1984) Macleod/Riopelle

Riopelle song "Let's Get Loaded Like We Used To Do" written by Riopelle, Margolin, Macleod

Macleod cowrote and sang back up on 2 songs with Jim Messina for Loggins & Messina LP.

"Time to Get it Together" by the Country Coalition (w. Fred Roberds) 1970

"Time to Get it Together" by Leonard Nimoy 1970

"Pop Goes the Hammer" by Lorne Green (w. S.Roberds/H Capps)

"Antique Doll" by Electric Prunes (w. Macleod/Roberds)

"we can make it" by the Forum (W. Macleod/ Roberds/ Les Baxter"

"Welcome you're in love" (w. Macleod/Margolin/Riopelle) by the American Breed

"Radio Song" by The Buffoons (Dutch Group)

And i think that's all i've found right now. There's got to be more. I can't imagine they didn't continue to produce after 1970, especially being so prolific with the Parade.

Well i hope we can come up with a comprehensive list. I'm going to have a good time trying to track down all the tunes on ebay--plus i'm all for sharing songs between fans.

hopefully i hear from you soon

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Complete California Saga as told by Les Fradkin

Here it is as promised. Les Fradkin himself tells the tale of California, the band that continued the pure pop sound that was all but lost in the mid 1970's-early 1980's. In an era where schmaltz, punk, disco and more schmaltz permeated the airwaves, California kept the hook-filled pop song alive. Les finally records his detailed memories--naming names, chronicling dates and sessions, and providing a full discography--and is essential reading for any Beatles, Beach Boys, or Left Banke fan...or any fan of pop music. So without any further rattling, here is....


"THE STORY OF THE LAURIE RECORDS GROUP CALIFORNIA has seldom, if ever been told. I was an original member and the only constant throughout the group's history from 1973 thru 1985.

The group was originally formed by myself, Barry Butler and George Cameron (drummer of The Left Banke). Barry & I would write together on our matching Rickenbacker 12 string guitars and stumbled on a sound that, in some respects, predated the Fleetwood Mac sound of 1975 and, in other respects, shared influences of The Left Banke and The Beach Boys. Because of that trait, I asked George Cameron to be our drummer and third harmony singer and he enthusiastically agreed.

We wanted to do big harmony pop. Went looking for a record deal in 1973 and after recording some demos at A-1 studios in NYC, landed a contract with Laurie Records. Their offices were on West 46th St in Manhattan, NYC.During the course of the contract negotiations, Barry got quite uptight with the Laurie staff. He left the band and quit the music business. Steve Martin from The Left Banke came onboard to replace him. Bev Warren was added at Laurie VP Gene Schwartz's suggestion.

The first release came out in 1973 and was "See You In September" b/w "Ivy, Ivy". The B-side, although the same title as the Left Banke tune was one of my originals.

The group originally was myself, Steve Martin; George Cameron (from The Left Banke) and Beverly Warren (Female Vocalist). Mike Brown (composer of "Walk Away Renee") guested on these sides but was not a part of the group. That A-side had a "Let's Go To San Francisco" Flowerpot Men meets Motown meets Beach Boys feel. It ended up on a Laurie Compilation called Collector Records Of The 50's & 60's Vol. 14.

Lineup for the first single:Les Fradkin - Lead Vocal (Ivy Ivy), Rickenbacker 6-string Bass, Background vocals, Rickenbacker 12-string guitar George Cameron - Drums, Background Vocals Steve Martin - Electric guitar, Background vocals Mike Brown - Piano, Harpsichord Eliot Greenberg - Background Vocals ("See You In September")Beverly Warren- Lead Vocal ("See You In September")"

See You In September" got to #111 on the Billboard Charts if I recall correctly.

The group played a couple of shows and opened for Dion in New Jersey once. Then, the group broke up temporarily. Nothing further on the group until 1976. ........Gene Schwartz had the idea to revive the group and record a cover of "Jeans On" which at that moment, was NOT out in the US. Although he knew it was a risk, he plowed ahead anyway and asked me to put a new group together under the California name.Since George & Steve were unavailable and the Beatlemania show was still just in rehearsal with no real clue as to destination or possible success, I invited the Beatlemania group to participate. This single was recorded at Electric Lady Studios and is the ONLY California record I produced without Gene & Eliot.

I insisted on the artistic autonomy and was granted the chance. The record gets a Top 60 pick in Cash Box, Billboard & Record World.

Lineup for "Jeans On" and "Doo Wop Music"

Les Fradkin - Lead Vocal (Doo-Wop) Background Vocals, Moog and BassDiana Haig- Background Vocals (Jeans On and Doo Wop Music)Joe Pecorino- Lead Vocal and Background Vocals (Jeans On)Mitch Weissman- Piano and Background Vocals (Jeans On)Justin McNeill- Drums (Jeans On and Doo Wop Music)FYI: This lineup was the ONLY appearance by the Original Cast Of Beatlemania on record OUTSIDE the context of the Broadway show.
"Jeans On" is a cover of the David Dundas hit tune. We thought we could beat it out in the US. Not quite! :-) "Doo Wop Music" was written by Diana & I.

"Song Of A Thousand Voices" b/w "Abraham, Martin & John".

Lineup:Recorded 1973 > Released 1976 Les Fradkin - Lead & Background Vocals, 12-String Gtr, Bass, MellotronGeorge Cameron - drums, vocals Steve Martin - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals Barry Butler - 12-String Guitar, Vocals

"Song Of A Thousand Voices" (my song) had already been an nternational hit single for Mireille Mathieu and Roberto Jordan in French and Spanish language versions respectively. We thought it could hit in the US.Not quite! :-)"Abraham, Martin & John" was among the demos that got me my Laurie deal along with "Where Have All The Heroes Gone". Barry Butler was originally supposed to be in the group but left before the first release in 1973. But he helped form the sound we used. Just as a side note, Barry Butler co-wrote "Where Have All The Heroes Gone" and "Everything Is Gonna Be All Right" with me. Those two songs were also among the first California demos. "Heroes" was eventually sung by my friend Tom Selden. I released "Everything" as the closing track on my solo "Jangleholic" CD in 2006.

"I'm Just Thinking Of You" Lineup:Les Fradkin- Lead & Background Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, MellotronDrum ProgrammingDiana Haig- Background VocalsJoAnne Calabrese- Lead & Background Vocals

This was a song that Joanne Calabrese wrote that I liked. It reminded me of Spanky & Our Gang as JoAnne had that same sort of vocal timbre. It didn't chart, unfortunately. On to 1981:I returned to Laurie Records as a producer / artist after Beatlemania closed at the end of 1979. Gene & Bob Schwartz wanted to revive the group with a Stars on 45 type release. I suggested a Beach Boys type record and they said OK if I could find the right guys. I went searching in the Village Voice under the guise of "auditioning" for a band that was advertising. That was Tony Pernice and Richie Tuske. Their ad read: "Wally Bryson, where are you?" That, I thought, would be me. Needless to say, it was a great match up. I brought the guys to the attention of Laurie Records and we got working on the medley. As you can hear, it turned out to be a pretty exciting record. It took 100 hours to record and mix at Minot Studios in White Plains, New York. Gene & Eliot co produced but my production direction held sway throughout. Tony, Richie & I arranged the vocals. I arranged the track with Gene. By that time, all tunes that California recorded were arranged t my home studio before going up to Minot to record final takes. This gave us a very clear idea of what to expect in the studio when the clock was running.Things evolved from there as the record took off fairly quickly across the country on radio. It swept to #1 in several markets and, as you may know, Dick Clark gave it an airing on American Bandstand. There was even a story in Billboard about it.

We were booked to open for Todd Rundgren & Utopia at The Last Chance in Poughkeepsie, NY. That was a pretty cool show. I played a Rickenbacker doubleneck at that time. In fact, the whole band used Ricks and matching Vox Amps. JP Patterson played drums with our live shows as Bob Miller had other work as the drummer of The Metro Men who recorded for Genra Raven's Polish Records label.

Summer Fun Medley

Lineup:Les Fradkin-Lead & Background Vocals, Lead Guitar, KeysTony Pernice- Lead & Background Vocals, BassRichie Tuske- Lead & Background Vocals, Rhythm GuitarBob Miller- Drums


Lineup:Les Fradkin- Guitars, Bass, Drum Programming

Brown Eyed Girl

Lineup:Les Fradkin- Lead & Background Vocals, Guitars, Theremin, Piano, MellotronTony Pernice- Background Vocals and BassRichie Tuske- Background Vocals and Rhythm GuitarBob Miller - Drums

Thank You For Lovin Me

Lineup:Tony Pernice- Lead VocalsLes Fradkin - Guitar & Bass Other Instruments from existing track from Laurie Archives

By 1982, the group started to evolve a bit out of the strict Beach Boys style and into a kind of Blondie like atmospheric Pop sound. Tony & Richie branched off to form The Singles which also included myself on guitar. Meanwhile Laurie & I replaced them in California with two new members from the Beatlemania show: Gigi Hagemann-Teeley (wife of my understudy Tom Teeley) on Vocals and Keyboards and Don Linares on Bass and Vocals. Bob Miller stayed on board on Drums. Gigi had a very interesting and unique voice.The first single for the new group was a tune Diana Haig & I wrote called "He's Almost You" A very unique but commercial song about jealousy and wandering thoughts of someone else other than the "one you're with". I loved the chorus hook: "He's Almost You.... But he's not you!" This song has since been covered by the girl group Venus In Bluejeans on my RRO Entertainment label. The B-Side, "Three Time Loser" was a Laurie catalog tune that Gene wanted us to try. "He's Almost You" charted Top 50 in the U.K. The follow up "The Land Of Fun ^ Love" did not se any chart action.

He's Almost You / Three Time Loser / Land Of Fun & Love

Lineup:Les Fradkin- Background Vocals, Guitar, Electric Piano, MellotronGigi Hageman-Teeley - Lead Vocals, PianoDon Linares - Bass, Background VocalsBob Miller - Drums The group had run it's course by 1983 but Gene & I revived the name for the 1985 album "Electric Swing" which was the first Guitar Synthesizer album ever made and a very early MIDI programming miracle for those days. An interest cross of pop, rock and big band arrangement were the chief highlight of that release. At that point, the book closed on California.Little Brown Jug / String Of Pearls Lineup:Les Fradkin- Guitar Synthesizer and all other instrumentsThis was the FIRST Guitar Synthesizer album EVER made.One of these days, EMI (who owns it all) will do a compilation, I hope. And when they do, I'll remaster it if they're interested. "

CALIFORNIA Discography: See you in September / Ivy Ivy (1973) Laurie 3612 Song of a thousand voices / Abraham Martin & John (1976) Laurie 3639
Jeans on / Doo-wop music - Laurie 3647 (1976)
I'm just thinking of you / Doo-wop music - (1976) Laurie 3649
Summer fun medley / Paris (1945) (1981) Laurie 3695
Brown eyed girl / Thank you for lovin' me - Laurie 3701
He's almost you / Three time loser (1982) Laurie 3706
Black gypsy / The land of fun & love (1983) Laurie 3710
He's almost you / Three time loser - RCA 306
Little brown jug / String of pearls - 3C-114
COLLECTOR'S RECORDS OF THE 50's and 60's Vol 14 - (1982) Feat. See you in September

Thursday, January 8, 2009


hey...if you were looking for the Paley Brothers video i made for youtube yesterday i moved it here. it unfortunately was removed immediately (at least the audio was) due to ownership rights. The song is "You're the Best" and it's kind of Beach Boys-esque. Stick around to the chorus and it pays off.

It's off their 1978 Sire LP. Cool album, it was produced by Earle Mankey. He is best known for being in Sparks, as well as producing the Quick LP "Mondo Deco", as well as engineering Beach Boys LP's (I think "Love You"). The whole Paley Brothers album is very Everly Brothers, which surprised me as i had only heard the tune "Come out and Play" before I picked it up. I mean i guess the other tracks aren't necessarily that far off, but still not quite power poppy as that one.

One thing about these guys is that they are soooo cute. I'm not gay, but c'mon look how pretty they are. Undeniable--and i'll leave it at that.

Andy went on to produce sessions for Brian Wilson (there are always so many Beach Boys connections with good bands).

Thursday, January 1, 2009

100th video on YOUTUBE! Thank you, Eric Carmen.

Check out my 100th video on youtube (softsoundpop). It's "Sparrow" by Cyrus Erie, featuring Eric Carmen and Wally Bryson--soon to form the Raspberries. It's a pretty bouncy tune, kind of has a Badfinger "Come and Get it" with just a bit more caffeine. Also a good number of "la la's" thrown in there. In fact, I can't help but hear a little of the Banana Splits theme song after the piano intro. Tell me you hear it to, or i'll have to give up life.

If you'd like to see the vid click here:

While I'm on the subject of Eric Carmen, isn't it a dirty shame how he looked in his mug shot. Everyone looks bad in any mug shot, especially if they were drinking, and it was kind of messed up that the most attention he's gotten in the last 20 years isn't his 2000 CD or the Raspberries reunion, but his appearance in the pic. Plus, most sites printed something along the lines of "Remember that guy who sang "Hungry Eyes", well he got arrested for DUI." Man--what the heck. This guy wrote "Go All the Way", "Ecstacy", everything else. He wrote "Hey Deanie", "She Did It", created the most perfect and pure examples of Power Pop in musical existence.

The Who sometimes gets credit for the creation of the genre; other times it's Badfinger. But it's most assuredly the Raspberries. I go on the record right here and now until someone convinces me with striking evidence that will floor me enough to make me change my opinion.
Look i like the Who and Badfinger, but there's a certain lack of consistency in their sound that excludes them from the title of "Kings of Power Pop" (I just made that up now). The Who were loud (read: POWER) and at times melodic (read: POP), but they were very experimental--long songs, the whole "deep lyrics" thing--c'mon now. Then there's Badfinger. They did have "No Matter What" which beat "Go All the Way" to the charts by a year. And "No Matter What" was a power pop single, and maybe "Baby Blue" or "Come and Get it" were too, but as far as whole albums, the Power Pop poops. They had a bluesier sound, and this disqualifies them as power pop.
Then you have the Raspberries and Eric Carmen. He was so single mindedly focused on creating a sound, that it followed him from the Cyrus Erie single, through the Raspberries, and shows up in a diluted form in his solo stuff. Even his Raspberries tunes that could come across as "schmaltzy" (not my word) like "I Can Remember" kicks but eventually. Then a song like "Let's Pretend" which wouldn't even be considered a ballad. It's just slower power pop. In Carmen's hands, the slower songs are given an energy that is missing from, say, a Badfinger.
Well i didn't really expect to spend the last 1/2 hour defending Eric Carmen, and I'm certainly not finished. We'll continue this tomorrow, as right now I'm getting the uncontrollable urge to watch "Terror in Beverly Hills" with Stallone, and not Sly.
See ya tomorrow!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Smart Remarks---New Jersey Power Pop Trio! circa 1983! a brief history! and uncomfortable usage of !

Check this out! About 15 years ago, as i was in the midst of my more exploratory record collecting time period, i was on one of my thrift store circuit Sundays and ended up, as i often still do, sitting on the floor indian style in front of a mess of LP's at a Goodwill. This one was in Bordentown, NJ--one of my least fav places if only due to the unusual percentage of unhip (c'mon i'm too cool) or poor conditioned records.

Stuffed somewhere in the mire of frayed cardboard was a record, low budget but intriguing in it's cover--vibrant and likeable. The band was called Smart Remarks and the title of the album was "Seriously Speaking". Five Songs. Three young guys in Chucks, rolled up sleeves and tight jeans adorned the cover in goofy poses circa 1983-ish. One of them even had the obligatory thin tie with short sleeve shirt! The real clincher was this piece of info:


Aw man, this was right around the corner from where i was sitting, and about 15 minutes from where i lived at the time. I had to get it. Fifteen years later, i still spin it at least once a week.

SO CHARMING, this record is. One of the most engaging self pressings I've ever heard. The songs have a Dirty Looks/Records feel mixed with a Cheap Trick energy to it (especially the drum tracks). "Seriously Speaking" doesn't have a cheesy chord in it's grooves, a rarity in early eighties records--self pressed or major label. The music is tight as heck too. Power pop harmonies flow throughout the record as well as just the awesomist drum sound ever.

Four of the five songs are originals; the cover is the Dirty Looks tune "Disappearing". The others are all written by Todd Ellis, lead vocalist and guitarist, with the exception of "Reverse Velocity" which was written by Ellis and bassist Steve Destefano. Drummer Ant Barbalace (credited as just Ant on the disc) finished off the trio. Produced and Engineered by Scott A. Evans, who also provided additional backing vocals, it was recorded Oct. '83 to March '84 at Songram Studios in Mercerville, N.J., except "Disappearing", which was recorded at Joe's Sound Studio in Trenton, N.J. Also of note is the appearance of Assistant Engineer Tom Marolda, also know as The Toms, who went on to work with Richie Sambora and do movie soundtracks (latest Rocky movie) as producer/writer.

After doing more research, i discovered that Smart Remarks had been a pretty big band in central Jersey in the early 80's--playing iconic Trenton club City Gardens numerous times including an opening slot for Joan Jett. They had first released a single, in 1981, on Criminal Records called "Mary's Got Her Eye On Me Tonight" b/w "Machine Working Overtime" This featured the trio of Ellis, Ant, and earlier bassist Chris Gordon. "Mary" is the hit that never was--a caffeinated version of their later work that starts with a traveling guitar riff and proceeds to lay the groundwork for the later pop punk of the Descendents and All. Lyrically romantic and innocent, musically hyper and short, the single should be considered a holy grail find in the punk genre. (Check it out on my youtube page here)

The boys soon ended up going their seperate ways, making music a part time gig as the pressures of adulthood (women, jobs, facial hair) quelched their artistic souls. But we all know that the Spirit of RAWWWK never really leaves the creative body. This, and the resurgence in popularity of early eighties punk and pop records in the last decade or so was why i wasn't surprised in October 2006 when I got word Todd was getting coaxed out of retirement to play City Gardens promoter/TSR DJ Randy Now's 50th Birthday party at the Conduit in Trenton. Of course i went. And in the last 2 years he has played a handful of solo gigs, most notably opening for ex-Monkee Peter Tork at The Record Collector in Bordentown. Also of note was a Smart Remarks reunion of sorts, with Todd and Steve Destefano doing both an acoustic and electric set at the same locale. Ant apparently would have loved to play but he was busy that night, AND he lives in North Carolina.

If you take a look on the internet, you can find some sights where you can download their stuff. Or check out their myspace: http://http//

I think it might be the official, but there are some other Smart Remarks myspace pages out there and they all have songs readily available to listen to.

There is also at least one live video recording of the band in their prime that hopefully hits youtube soon. Hopefully with gained exposure there will be a better chance of seeing this hit the web, or better yet an official release of the single, EP and whatever else may be in the vaults on CD.

That's it. I'm starting a petition to get this rolling. HELP ME

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Doctor Dolittle presents The Grasshoppers LP REVIEW!

I MUST ADMIT when i saw this LP in a Salvation Army in Trenton, i passed it over. It took me two more visits to actually shell out the .99 cents for it. There were three main reasons my compulsive record buying sense didn't tingle with this and I will enumerate them for you right now (what bad sentence structure; it doesn't quite capture the audience)
REASON NUMBER 1: The first time i saw this disc was also the first time I had been to this particular shop in about three weeks and in that time, there were a number of other more worthy records to concentrate on--including the Spiderman LP by the Webspinners and a Hammer era Christopher Lee-covered Dracula LP from the early 70's. So when I saw a group of cartoon grasshoppers in bell bottoms playing instruments on the cover, it didn't quite make the hair on my back stand on end. Which leads neatly into:
REASON NUMBER 2: I thought it was that other "The Grasshoppers" that covered the Chipmunks songs in the 60's. Their LP's are pretty well distributed throughout collections across thrift stores like Eagles records. Although these grasshoppers looked a bit more hip than the older ones that i think dressed like a barbershop quartet or something, I thought maybe they had been reinvented to cash in on the Archies and other cartoon bands.
REASON NUMBER 3: It was wedged in a stack of dozens of other childrens records--the typical Disney/Wacky Songs with covers of 1910 Fruitgum Co. songs on it--and to find a cool childrens record has been a rare occurance for me (the Wombles are good).
SO WHEN I took a third look at it, I first noticed it was distributed by Bell Records in 1970 (through Carousel Records) which had some cool sounds at that point (Partridge Family, Crazy Elephant, Davy Jones almost). That intrigued me. But when i read that the songs were from "DOCTOR DOLITTLE", as featured on the NBC Television network series" that was the clincher. This was an indication it wasn't just going to be a cheapo all covers children record--there might actually be some substance to it. And I was right.
THIS LP HAS a sound that is a creepy combination of cartoon/childrens/christian/fake TV show background music. All tracks are written by Doug Goodwin who has done tons of cartoon soundtracks. There seem to be a male lead (maybe two) and a female lead as well as a number of background vocalists. The production is very sparse and rely mostly on vocals and the occasional organ and fuzzy guitar. No credit is given to any musicians or vocalists on the album so anyone with any info on that please drop a message!
TO SAY IT is like the Archies, which would be a natural comparison to make, is not quite accurate. Most of the songs are either sung as a group or by the female lead with background accompaniment as opposed to the predominantly male vocals on the Archies tunes. Also, whereas the Archies were written and produced for hitmaking purposes, well crafted tunes by some of the greatest writers in pop history, the songs on "The Grasshoppers" are quite schizophrenic. While most of the tunes sound like an anemic Free Design with antennae (they are real grasshoppers, right?) one track specifically sounds Nilsson-esque (On a Train Goin' West is sort of a "I Guess the Lord Must be in New York City" with a broken compass). Aside from that one song which is really kind of low key, the album has a strange energy that keeps the listener hypnotized (three times in a row last night).
MOST OF THE tracks are lyrically child-oriented, nothing too sophisticated. But all the lyrics are quite positive and perfect for a quick cheer-up, which is essential to sunshine pop.

The Grasshoppers "On a Train Goin' West" 1970

THERE ARE ENOUGH touches of stylish vocal harmonies to make this something to seek out for anyone who is getting worried that they've found all the great sunshine pop/bubblegum/feelgood records ever produced, which is where I was until recently. I've realized I've had to branch out as a fan and collector. Some of the best pop vocal LP's i've ever heard are Christian "message" records. Maybe there is an untapped vein of childrens records out there also.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Here's Some Parade on your Rain....get it?


You should listen to this song.....A bit more of a rocking number than the Small Circle of Friends version. It was written by Murray MacLeod and Smokey Roberds both of the Parade. They wrote their own tunes too. How self contained. If Boyce and Hart were in the Monkees, you'd get the Parade.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Where did Montage Mirror come from?

I am pleased with my "The Parade-Sunshine Girl: The Complete Recordings" CD that was released about a month ago. I am quite pleased indeed. I was only familiar with "Sunshine Girl" (of course), "A.C./D.C." (which had been compiled on one of the "Soft Sounds for Gentle People" discs), and "She Sleeps Alone" (which i found a slideshow video of on Youtube.)
It reinforced what I had a feeling about from these 3 tracks--the Parade was very talented and highly commercial without being completely derivative. It also verified that any song Murray MacLeod features on is golden. He has a voice that defies classification, sort of like a male Karen Carpenter (not trying to be sacriligeous but when he sings ballads he too sounds so damn heart wrenching.)
I would love to review the CD and ramble on about the deevolution of music. But my real intent in this post is to try to get some info on the bonus track "Montage Mirror." It is credited to Roger Nichols Trio (buy all their stuff.) It is written by Nichols and Roberds (Smokey of the Parade). There is no more info available. No producer listen, no year given. It was in the demo stage and apparently got no further than that.
My question is two-fold. Who is singing on "Montage Mirror" and why wasn't it put on the Small Circle of Friends (Complete) compilation. That even included that "St. Bernie the Sno Dog" song.
It doesn't sound like MacLeod is on the track as the mystery singer's voice is a bit lower and doesn't seem to have the same singing inflection in his voice. His sister isn't in it at all so she's out of the running. I've only heard Nichols' voice in recent years and it's much gruffer. Not saying his voice hasn't evolved in the last 30-40 years, but there is another factor that excludes Nichols from being the vocalist. He has a slower delivery than the singer on "Montage"; Nichols has more of a thought-out and reflective voice. But maybe I'm just overanalyzing. And besides, it bears little resemblence to any SCOF stuff as it has more of a garagey sound; more precisely it sounds like a song played in the background of an episode of Get Smart when Max shows up at a "counterculture party".
As to why it wasn't released on the SCOF, i'm still a bit baffled. I'd like to think the compilers just dug it up from a private owner who got it from a studio engineer or something. Those stories are awesome. To me it's more intriguing than all 3 Bourne movies. I have daydreams of stumbling upon a ratty cardboard box, with scribbles and stains and worn out masking tape on it and i open it up and i find a lost Monkees demo. Then I buy a reel to reel player and listen to it all by myself and never share it with anyone. Ain't I a stinker?
If any reader has any answers for me, it'd be appreciated. Or even if you have any cool stories to share about rare songs or Murray MacLeod or The Parade please do. I'm information starved.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Massive Guilt over my treatment of Jan and Dean

I've been thinking it over. I'm not retracting my statements over Jan and Dean. Hours after my previous post, I still feel the same way about their fluffy sound. But maybe I should clarify my position. I like them--I do. But maybe some fans are too blinded by the Brian Wilson connection to see them for their own talents. And to show there are no hard feelings, here's an outtake of a Brian Wilson demo of "Gonna Hustle You", "New Girl in School", "Get a Chance With You"--whatever it was called. Since Wilson wrote it for them, I figure it would be appropriate to add this as an addendum to the previous blog entry.

(and for anyone who thinks i only added this to slip in a rare Brian Wilson track, who knows you may be right. Please don't tell anyone though.)

brian wilson demo song ****gonna hustle you

For more great easy listening/soft pop--click this here link