Got The Fever

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Raspberries

There are a great many tracks that cause me to smile and exclaim out loud something along the lines of “Yea, great song!” There are fewer that make me jerk up my head in recognition, and with a broad smile have me say something silly like “F***in’ awesome tune” with extream emphasis.

However, for me, most rare of all, are the very few tracks that physiologically altogether somehow bypass knee-jerk physical gestulations, keenly short circuit any plausible articulation and tunnel unconsciously straight into to my primitive/primordial gut level. This is where any outbursts, any familiar movement, any repeated expressions, any phrase, any meaningful description in a vain attempt to describe the tangle of thoughts that are thrust above all others have been netted submissively before the musical assault has even fully bloomed. Such is the way I feel when “Go All The Way” by The Raspberries overwhelms the airways around me.

The exquisite assault of guitar, the guttural shouting of Eric Carmen before the first verse, the aortic crush of bass, the permeating rainfall of fuzz guitar and the kamikaze approach of pop precision that lay waste from the very first seconds are, to me, among the most elusive prizes in recorded music. They are also thought of by me to be amongst the most rewarding of prizes in recorded music.

Bit of trivia: Wally Bryson wrote the beginning riff – never credited – which was based on “The Kids Are Alright” by The Who. Hmmmm.

I’ve always been a sucker, had a soft spot, a weakness for power pop (ever hear of The Atlantics?). The explosions in my head from these types of songs sometimes seem to affect me in a way that defies description. Filling me with bursts of light, sending deep-rooted resurgences of invincibility and connection with the song and artist itself.

I present you with more of The Raspberries in all their pop glory. Being the somewhat of the music whore that I am, I had a hard time "thinning the herd" as it were. So, there are four tracks today. Revel in the glory!

Beginning with an almost McCartney-ish 1-2-3-4 circa “I Saw Her Standing There”, Eric and Co. bash us upside of the head with unbridled Rickenbackers, tight but thick harmonies, melody to drool over and drums that must have been stolen from the gods themselves.

There's no denying what he's hinting at here.

You looked too young to know about romance (Oh, yes you did)
But when you smiled I had to take a chance
I had to take a chance and be with you tonight

Won't cha let me sleep with you, baby

I just wanna make you feel good inside, baby
Let me feel the love that's in you Come on, come on Come on and let me
Come on, baby

Drivin’ Around
This smacks of the beginning of summer and always will. The teenage experience that starts with the end of school paired with the advent of long hot days with the circle of friends cruising day after day, night after night in someone’s old car with music always above conversation level is unparallel with anything you experience afterward. Nothing in the adult world compares with that feeling, and I think Eric has deftly laid it out on vinyl. Pop music, breeze through your hair, and significant other by your side, perhaps booze held between your legs so the cops can’t see … what else is there at 16?

When school lets out
And the summer's here
We'll have some time for the sun
Throw my notebooks out
And put my car in gear'
Cause we'll be havin' some fun

Drivin' around(Long hot days we'll be catchin' the rays)
Drivin' around(Long hot days we'll be catchin' the rays)
You know my tape deck is blastin'
My car's fast!

I’m A Rocker
After “Go All The Way”, this is where I put my money. The opening riff is prevalent throughout, but the guitars, once more, are irresistible not to sometimes catch yourself faking air guitar. This is an all out confession that rock and roll owns his musical soul and he will never be able to afford the price for getting it back.


Back beat boogie got a hold on me
Make me wanna jump and shout!
Twistin' like a top, I never wanna stop tonight
You surely look like a magazine
And you can move like I never seen
Reelin' and a rockin' babe

Come on and dance with me!

I'm a rocker, I'm a roller
I've been a boogie since I ditched the stroller
So come on hold me tight
We can rock the night away

I get this feelin' when I hear that beat
I gotta jump and get up on the table'
Cause when that rhythm and blues electrifies my shoes
I get the message like it came by cable!

Overnight Sensation
How many great bands have you seen in your lifetime that were a phenomenon either at a city-wide level, or region-wide? A handful? A dozen? More? Out of those, how many have you wished and wondered, “They should have been HUGE!”

Sometimes it doesn’t make sense who does and who doesn’t. How do you think the band members themselves felt when putting out their best just didn’t get the recognition they felt they deserved? All they want, all they thirst for, all their sacrifices are for one aim – hearing their song on the radio.

Thus, we have come to the premise of this track. Even Eric wasn’t above the base emotion of wanting, no - needing – to hear what he wrote on the radio. There’s some great engineering here also. Listen in at 2’59 and hear the music as if it’s coming out of an old transistor radio – he gets his wish! Listen to the fade at 4’00 and then the drums “from the gods themselves” that bring back the chorus. Not a bad single Eric. Not bad at all.

Interesting side note is that they at first introduced the song to the honcos at Capitol as “Hit Record”, but they were nixed, being told that the title was “a little too presumptuous”.

I've been tryin' to write the lyric,
Not offensive but satiric, too.
If you can get it in the "A" slot.
It's just gotta make a mint for you!

And I want a hit record!
Want to hear it on the radio!
Want a big hit record!

One that everybody's got to own!

Gonna be an overnight sensation!

Quote from Springsteen: “They haven’t gotten the respect they deserve… The Raspberries had great stuff. They had a great record called “Overnight Sensation” one of the greatest little pop operas that anybody ever did.”

Raspberries: Tonight (39)
Raspberries: Drivin’ Around (21)
Raspberries: I’m A Rocker (26)
Raspberries: Overnight Sensation (Hit Record) (26)
From: The Raspberries, Capitol Collector’s Series [1991]

Visit The Raspberries online at their website.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Gloria and Marc

This edition of Got The Fever finds me listening, quite by accident, to Gloria and Marc on my random play list. What better couple to post?

Gloria had minor hits early in her career and then went to England where she met up with Marc who was by then a certified rock power player racking up multiple hits as T-Rex. They had a son together, Rolan Bolan. They went out the night of September 16, 1977, had a few too many, and she took the wheel. They crashed and Marc was killed. I believe that it was in an Austin Martin.

Gloria was part of a group called The Blossoms along with Darlene Love and Fanita James. Their own records didn’t go far, but you can hear them as backing vocalists on "Rockin'
Robin" (Bobby Day), "Chain Gang" (Sam Cooke), "Goodbye Cruel World"(James Darren), "Johnny Angel" (Shelley Fabares), "Monster Mash" (Bobby Pickett), "Be My Baby" (Ronettes).

Biggest success for them? When Phil Spector was having problems with his girl band The Crystals, he used The Blossoms to record a new song called “He’s A Rebel”. He released it as being sung by “The Crystals.” Biggest disappointment for them? They only received studio fees for their performance. “He’s A Rebel” was, of course, a monster hit.

Now, Marc … what can we add to his legend? Nothing. But we can perhaps just lay out the facts. An innovator who inspired countless peers such as Bowie (listen for the T-Rex line in “All The Young Dudes”) and Ian Hunter to start with. Much sought out and hung with the upper elite of rock. The man just about invented glam rock on his own. He was the very essence of cool and stately aloofness in his time. He is one of the few in rock who led and did not follow. As they say, his legend lives on. I’ve always loved this quote by him: "I've always got something interesting to long as the right person asks the right questions" Perfect.

Tainted Love
That authentic 60’s sound replete with handclapping, strong thumping bass, echo chamber and spot on 4/4 rhythm guitar. All that helps to give this a much lighter feel and strongly shows its soul flavor. Quite a completely different song listened to in that text – very different than the version Soft Cell did somewhere in the 80’s. It’s a shame that this went nowhere, but make up for that by hearing it here.

Once I ran to you (I ran)
Now I'll run from you
This tainted love you've given
I give you all a girl could give you
Take my tears and that's not nearly all
Tainted love
Tainted love

Rabbit Fighter
Could be my favorite T-Rex song of all time. Maybe. Take it all in - the double lead guitar, the bluesy swirling and swaying styling, the almost whispering but controlling vocal, the cannon-like quality of the drums. I remember hearing this everywhere I went well into the 90’s. Ok, I was the one who always brought it and played it.

Shady politician in my bed
Tying bolts of lightening to his head
Call me Rabbit Fighter
You know its true
'Cos babe I'll rabbit fight all over you

When He Touches Me
Now THIS should have been a hit! This is Gloria’s torch song and she is smoldering hot lava in your head when you are properly adjusted to accept her. She begins by detailing how she’s being abused, accompanied by the guitar, organ and drums. Then she rips open a new one when she sings about how nothing else matters – accompanied by silk smooth backing vocals. And, let’s give the horns their props. Can I get a witness on this one by sister Gloria? Somebody, please! And yet, she knows that it’s wrong what he does to her. She knows this, but she can’t leave! Listen in a around 2:55 when she unloads holy hell, almost leaving us trembling in tears.

He’s mean to me
He’s so bad to me
He uses me
Refuses me

When he touches me,
The way he touches me,
Nothing else matters!

Ballrooms Of Mars
A haunting song drenched in attitude that has a feel like it is just barely able to refrain itself from breaking out. And those guitars again – you gotta love a crazy but perfect pairing of acoustic and electric. Remembering that it was innovative in its time of course.

You talk about day
I'm talking 'bout night time
When the monsters call out
The names of men
Bob Dylan knows
And I bet Alan Freed did
There are things in night
That are better not to behold

You dance
With your lizard leather boots on
And pull the strings
That change the faces of men
You diamond browed hag
You're a gutter-gaunt gangster
John Lennon knows your name
And I've seen him – Rock!

Gloria Jones: Tainted Love (42)
From ? [196?]

Gloria Jones: When He Touches Me (38)
From: Deep Soul Inferno [197?]

T-Rex: Rabbit Fight (23)
T-Rex: Ballroom Of Mars (18)
From: The Slider [1973]

Addendum March 28, 2006: A 'hats off' to JB for taking the time to send me the link for "Deep Soul Inferno" that has the Gloria song.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Bond. James Bond.

There’s something almost grandiose about a 007 film, and so much excess to go along with each installment. The impossibly sexy and scantily clad women who play both good and villianous roles, the futuristic and ultimately deadly gadgets from ‘M’, the imminent annihilation of the earth (or an important portion of it) that goes with every film, and as always, the every classy and classic theme songs. Well, I wrote that too quickly, so so I’ll amend it to the exceptions to the rule. Do we really want to remember contributions by A-Ha or Duran Duran?

Most of the theme songs are indelibly etched into your memory and evoke as much emotion as the film that it’s branded to. More than a few have even reached Billboard status. For instance ‘Live And Let Die’ by McCartney, ‘Nobody Does It Better’ by Carly Simon, ‘For Your Eyes Only’ by Sheena Easton (#1) and ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ by Sheryl Crowe.

So, there’s something special about a new Bond film in the theater when you watch the over-the-top, sure to blow you away opening scene for the first time with popcorn and beverage in hand, audience bathed in screen glow. There’s something grin producing as that opening scene climaxes spectacularly and then you listen to the new Bond Theme being birthed.

James Bond Theme
Composed by Monty Norman in 1963 for the Bond film, “Dr. No”., this is the quintessential Bond theme and the one most recognized. Parts and shards of this are used in most of the films when an added emphasis is needed in the action.

According to Wikipedia, “The main theme for Dr. No is the "James Bond Theme," although the opening credits also include an untitled bongo interlude, and concludes with a vocal Calypso-flavored rendition of "Three Blind Mice" titled "Kingston Calypso" that sets the scene and is repeated throughout the film. Because of this, Dr. No is the only film to have two opening themes.”

Listen to that jangly, vibrato-laced guitar! Dig those vibes and the big band inspired drumming. It doesn’t get better than this my Ian Fleming freaks!

Tom Jones. Say no more. The man could sing a phone book and get a standing-O. Starring the man himself, Sean Connery, IMDB describes the plot as “When SPECTRE steals two nuclear bombs for a massive extortion scheme, agent 007 is sent in to find them before they can be used.” Oh, yea. I’m there. Babe du jour is Claudine Augur. Tom helps 007 out in his own small way. From, of course, Thunderball.

Any woman he wants, he'll get.
He will break any heart without regret.
His days of asking are all gone.
His fight goes on and on and on.
But he thinks that the fight is worth it all.
So he strikes like Thunderball.

Big side note: none other than Johnny Cash also recorded a version of Thunderball, but the powers that be determined that they wanted Tom’s version on the film. Johnny’s version can be found on a few of his Greatest Hits offerings.

Bold, sassy and raw. Shirley kicks as much butt with her voice as James does with his knuckles. Shirley’s themes are among the most memorable of all the themes (again, as opposed to, well ... anyone remember Rita Coolidge and ‘All Time High’?), and with good reason. She also recorded Diamonds Are Forever, Moonraker and "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" for Thunderball (Dionne Warwick received the nod for that track in the film). Spectacular vocals, tight arrangements and brimming with dense emotion. From, you guessed, Goldfinger.

Golden words he will pour in your ear
But his lies can't disguise what you fear
For a golden girl knows when he's kissed her
It's the kiss of death from Mister Goldfinger.

Pretty girl beware of this heart of gold
This heart is cold.
He loves only gold
Only gold.

John Barry: James Bond Theme (13)
Tom Jones: Thunderball (11)
Shirley Bassey: Goldfinger (14)

From: Best of Bond James Bond [2002]

Friday, March 09, 2007

1-2-3-4: Counting out 1970

Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)

1-2, 1-2-3-4!

Right from the opening count and the demanding bass riff, you know something good is spinning. It’s one of those introductions that get you to tilt your head a bit and strain to hear more above the din around you.

Listen to that scratch rhythm guitar – nothing but brilliant. The drums come slithering in at 0:43 but don’t really pound full skin until just about 1:06, and there’s as fierce and persuasive a torching harmonica as your ever going to have the privilege to hear.

“Round and around and around we go
Where the world’s headed nobody knows”

You must listen to this in the context it comes from in 1970 both musically and politically. The ‘My Girl’ and ‘Beauty Is Only Skin Deep’ days were behind them. The music, with Norman Whitfield at the controls, became more a reflection of the tumultuous times everyone was wading in.

In ‘Ball Of Confusion’ they cry about integration, segregation, gun control, kids growing up too soon, bill collectors, suicide, unemployment … in short, everything crammed into newspapers and CNN that you’ll see tonight, bringing to mind the cliché “The more things change, the more they stay the same”. Answer this: have we moved any closer to resolution of the issues in 2007 that the Temps of 1970 brought up? Consider this later on – have they mentioned anything any less powerful or important than what we face today? Truly, they sing a message for all time.

Interesting to note that they send out respect to the Fab Four in the line “The Beatle’s new record’s a gas!”, showing the mutual respect the two camps had. The Beatles found the Motown sound powerful and full of presence, but elusive to duplicate in the Abbey Road studios. See Geoff Emerick’s book “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles” for how the Beatles loved, relished as inspiration, and tried to duplicate the sound of Mowtown - but never could.

Another tasty tidbit I found while studying the history of this classic song is that the Temps were supposed to record “War”, but executives at Motown did not want to alienate the more conservative leaning record buying folk out there so it was given to up and coming Edwin Starr, while the toned-down, non-militant “Ball of Confusion” was done by the temps. Who here wouldn’t chip into the pot to hear even the demo of The Temptations doing “War” if it existed?

How about this – with the exception of the “great GoogaMooga” line (played in F) the whole song is based on just the C chord - just amazing musically.

As an aside, it’s been covered many times before but my personal fave is by an 80’s band called Love And Rockets. I feel they captured a bit of the bubbling tension the Temptations had for the tune.

Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine

Can I count it off? (yea)


Talking about great musicianship, can we let JB count it out? Damn straight we can!

What more superlatives can one use to commend and respect JB that hasn’t already been said?

Right you are, none.

Coming into 1970, the man has been a breathing, walking, and bottomless well of inspiration, and a living definition of musical genius. I think that up to this point in his career, he hadn’t done one thing wrong and could never trip, stumble or fall from his perch high above all. Could anyone ever be able to say, from a 1970 point of perspective, that he would ever lose his cutting edge? Can anyone argue with that?

Unmistakable guitar riff by none other than Bootsy Collins! Say wha’ - Bootsy? He was a tender fifteen when he laid this out. Yea, only fifteen – makes one want to put the guitar away and take up quilting instead doesn’t it?

No denying that the sound is pure JB though. JB at the top of his game anyone? I’m not going to argue the point, but damn, isn’t everything just perfect in this one? Listen to the piano frills and trills. A jam song that made it huge on the R ’N’ B charts, a fantastic Groove ’N’ Move, a ‘shake your moneymaker shaker’. Can a witness for the bass man please step forward and testify to his ability to carry this on his back? Ain’t nothing but a monster.

Can I take ‘em to the bridge?” (hit me now, come on now!)
Stay on the scene
Like a sex machine
The way I like it
Is the way it is
I got mine (dig it!)
He got his
Stay on the scene
Like a loving machine!

Can anyone estimate just how many funk up-and-coming bands tried to emulate the feel, the sound, and the essence of this particular track? How many were manipulated by JB in 1970 when they heard this haunting, elegant in it’s simplicity, riff banging in their head till the long-ago late night hours? A song just could not be more dance and hit worthy than this.

Take a step back into 1970 and listen to the countdown in these tracks. It is plainly incredible that these two grooves from 1970 are still making their inspiration felt today in 2007 – 37 years later! Marvel in their ability to move and sway the hips, and minds, of more than a few generations since they initially made their first impact. Their indelible print will continue to be a force to be reckoned with years from now.

Let me give you something to measure these tracks up against: how many present bands - bands playing today - can justify a claim that something they lay down in 2007 will be just as important to a willing audience 37 years from now - in 2044?


Didn't think so.

The Temptations: Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today) (25)
: Anthology [Original Recording Reissued] [1995]

James Brown: Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine (8)
From: Sex Machine: The Very Best of James Brown [2006]

Friday, March 02, 2007

Grace Jones

While being one of the highest paid models during the 70’s, Grace left the hard partying life style of the runway for the hard partying lifestyle of music/performance art. We are the better for it.

She apparently started out, similar to Bette Midler, performing in gay bars and small nightclubs. Getting more provocative and sexually explicit with each performance, Grace quickly created the necessary buzz to be noticed, and eventually a force to be reckoned with. Her shows were legendary, filled with pupil dilating pulsating music and outrageously eyebrow raising costumes. She proved to be a chameleon of sorts when she traded in her early S&M clothing of her early days for the androgynous look that she became better known for. Grace also constantly drew comparisons to Sophie Baker, (black, loved in Paris, fashionably outrageous) and admitted to using Sophie as inspiration.

Among her many escorts who clamored to be seen with her was Andy Warhol, who was enthralled with her and photographed her exhaustively. Jones is also known for being in a James Bond film ‘A View To A Kill’ and she appeared with Arnold in ‘Conan The Destroyer’.

Beautiful to look at, a stunning live show, an influence to many (who had a box haircut before her?) and an amazing ability to capture us with her original and cover material. What’s not to like?

My Jamaican Guy
Born in Jamaica herself, she hooks us with island inspired beat and streetwise lyrics. She growls, yelps and generally controls the imagery we have of the man she knows best. Very 80’s in its style but still sounding fresh today this is definitely something to put on when you need to feel a bounce in your step.

Take my life for a drive,
Never need to change his tools,
Him drive like a stubborn mule,
Dat way him naw go plop plop,
No way gas gwan bun out pan him,
Dat way him naw go plop plop,
No way gas gwan bun out pan him.

'Cause he's layed back, not thinking back,
Layed back, not worried back,
Layed back, not laying back,
Layed back, never holding back,
My Jamaican guy, My J.A. guy.

Walking In The Rain
This Flash In The Pan cover is magically powerful in its simplicity yet juxtapose that against how powerful and militaristic Grace’s matter-of-fact rendition is. Foreboding and restrained, this is just one example of how Grace could realign someone’s original material into a treasure not noticed before – mining the same tunnel, but an altogether different vein.

Feeling like a woman
Looking like a man
Sounding like a no-no
Make it when I can
Whistling in the darkness
Shining in the light
Coming the conclusion
Right is might is tight
Walking, walking in the rain

Grace Jones: My Jamaican Guy (26)
Grace Jones: Walking In The Rain (37)
From: Island Life [1985]
New Site: Check out G.O'D. It's actually someone named George who sounds like he has a score to even, but good writing nonetheless. Can't wait for chapter two!