Got The Fever

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Alternate Halloween

Time of the season for eating way too many bite-sized dark chocolate Milky Ways out of the bowl meant for trick-or-treaters, adolescents who are too old for Halloween but are in the last year of the candy siren having too strong of a hold on them, and seedy torture/gory snuff films convincing human sheep that they are actually “horror” films.

I remember a Halloween, not long in the past, when a few carloads of the gang went to Hammond Castle in Gloucester, Mass. to see a (midnight?) showing of the original – and silent – “Phantom Of The Opera”. A huge castle, dark as terror, massive showing room with all the tapestry and iron on the walls, and music provided by one of those old 19th century organs! Massive film, massive music.

Well, of course, being of the age group we were, we all made sure that we got our share of beers (and everything else) in us before we arrive there. However, an experience in the jitters I never forgot.

So, obviously, you can guess that to me Halloween is not the usual “Monster Mash” or goalie mask slice fest.

Evidence One: Black Sabbath
Here’s a song that gave me tight-skinned jitters and a few horrors back when I was a kid. My older brother had the Black Sabbath album and used to play it as he did his homework in his room. I was young enough to be in bed however. Listening to Ozzy scream “Oh no!, God, Please Help Me!” was enough to almost freeze the bowel tract of this kid back in the day.

The blanketing, chilling rain that starts the track, the lonely, echoing, tolling of a thick and cold church bell presiding over a vine encrusted graveyard juxtaposing with the battering of high-density power cords. Those alone led to a brew that intoxicated my little kid mind as powerfully as any that I would introduce later in life. The coup de grace however was masterful. Let’s add in that as I lie there in my forlorn “tent of doom”, the all-encompassing picture I had in my head was that of the woman on the cover of the album. A tall, black clinging-haired walking dead zombie with requisite flowing, rain-soaked black dress, walking through said tombstone alley with a face tainted green. My epitome of shuddering fear.

Some images from youth you can never let go of.

Is it the end, my friend?
Satans coming round the bend
People running cause they're scared
The people better go and beware!
No, no, please, no!

Evidence Two: RHPS - Sweet Transvestite
Evidence Three: RHPS - Time Warp

Halloween is just not complete with a yearly viewing of the classic Rocky Horror Picture Show. I remember seeing this for the first time at the Exeter Street Theater in Boston and was totally overwhelmed with the squirt guns, the twenty pound bags of rice being dumped over the edge from the balcony, the audience participants who knew every call-back line from queues in the movie, and the “actors” who walked and “acted” in perfect harmony the stage in front of the screen dressed exactly like those in the movie behind them - while the movie was in progress! Also, the ever-popular rendition of “Time Warp” that includes the whole audience on their feet with arms in the air! This was my first exposure to something that had achieved rabid, cult status.

I could show you my favourite obsession.
I've been making a man
With blond hair and a tan
And he's good for relieving my... ...tension
I'm just a sweet transvestite
From Transexual, Transylvania

Musically, this also gave me a fondness for Tim Curry that to this day I enjoy. Let’s not forget a first ever appearance for Meatlof, a first screen appearance for Susan Sarandon – in her underwear for crying out loud! – and for Barry Bosworth. I just can’t help but include a few worthy tracks.

It's so dreamy, oh fantasy free me.
So you can't see me, no, not at all.
In another dimension, with
voyeuristic intention,
Well secluded, I see all.

BTW – anyone have available Tim Curry’s album “Fearless”?

Evidence Four: Art of Dying – George Harrison
A bit of homage to leaving the material world behind. Phil Spector + George Harrison + crazy wah-wah’s + peak lead guitar = massive album. George is just so matter of fact, and subtle, about death in all of his albums – listen to “Within You And Without You”. Add this to the H’ween fest soundtrack.

“There’ll come a time when all your hopes are fading
When things that seemed so very plain
Become an awful pain
Searching for the truth among the lying
And answered when you’ve learned the art of dying”

Evidence Five: Lil’ Red Riding Hood – Sam The Sham And The Pharos
Basic heart-thumping garage rock (thanks Mark). Today, could you get a song like this on the popular radio and make it a smash? Nah. A joyous rocker veiled as a Grimm Brothers tale but is really about … well, it’s obvious. Gotta have this one.

What full lips you have.
They're sure to lure someone bad.
So until you get to grandma's place
I think you ought to walk with me and be safe.

Evidence Six: How You Gonna See Me Now? – Alice Cooper
Always the propensity for being in, escaping from or being let out of the loony bin! Good ol’ Alice was Shock Rock before Kiss was playing with mommy dearest’s make-up kit. This is one of his more introspective treat about being scared that he’s being leaving the asylum and if his woman is going to be able to accept him. Really, a timeless universal theme for all who are let go from any kind of prison.

Dear darlin' surprised to hear from me?
Bet you're sittin' drinkin' coffee, yawnin' sleepily
Just to let you know
I'm gonna be home soon
I'm kinda awkward and afraid
Time has changed your point of view

Black Sabbath: Black Sabbath
From: Black Sabbath [1999]

Sweet Transvestite
From: Rocky Horror Picture Show [1975]

Time Warp
From: Rocky Horror Picture Show [1975]

George Harrison: Art of Dying
From: All Things Must Pass [1970]

Sam The Sham And The Pharos: Lil’ Red Riding Hood
From: The Best of Sam The Sham And The Pharos [2001]

Alice Cooper: How You Gonna See Me Now?
From: From The Inside [1978]

I’ve mentioned this before, but Homercat has been running a great series on Halloween themed tracks. Get there and reap!

Addendum: 10:00PM

Alright, so I thought of a few more since this morning. I had reservations about putting more up, but damn – it’s the season!

Evidence Seven: Fire – Arthur Brown
Yea, he of “The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown”. One of the all-time great intro’s in rock and certainly one of the best garage tunes ever. A real piercing and distinct sound throughout and a must for the Halloween soundtrack.

Evidence Eight: I Married A Zombie – Randy & The Finks
Back in the mid-ninety’s the used to be a site Well, there still is, but not like it used to be. You used to be able to roam freely and download hundreds of songs covering all genres, and quite frequently while sampling the wares, you would stumble upon quality music. I don’t know anything about these guys, but I love the tune and it’s perfect for the mood.

Evidence Nine: Monster Surf Boogie – Donut Kings
Same story as above and Who couldn’t love a song that has zombies set to surf music? Classic Halloween right here at Got The Fever!

Evidence Ten: Slippin’ Into Darkness – Ramsey Lewis
Some bubble brewing music to leave on low with a black light for atmosphere. Ramsey does justice to his own making of the War classic and put honor into the soundtrack we’re making here. Take this not only for the seasonal leanings, but also to have something supreme by Ramsey himself!

This is off of the fantastic six-volume compilation “Pulp Fiction” which you must own! I’ll be spotlighting the entire collection at a later time.

Arthur Brown: Fire
From: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown [1997]

Randy & The Finks: I Married A Zombie
From: Unknown [199?]

Donut Kings: Monster Surf Boogie
From: Unknown [199?]

Ramsey Lewis: Slippin’ Into Darkness
From: Pulp Fiction, Vol. 2: Return To The Tough Side [1998]

Friday, October 20, 2006


I have to admit that I thought I was pretty well versed on The King, but when I recently heard these tracks for the first time, I was absolutely blown away! Another knock to the ego showing that just when you feel you have an edge in musical knowledge, you don’t really know squat. On the other hand, when you hear something by an long established artist that you hadn’t heard before, it’s like someone approaching you, arms outstretched saying “Oh, sorry. I almost forgot - there’s one more present for you”. Sweet!

The cat has always been able to sing through a pipeline directly from his soul! He climbed, grasped and settled in on the plateau that very few have ever reached and as a token of the music industry’s respect he is still, to this day, referred to as ‘The King’ by those in all genres of music – be it straight up R&R, Hip-Hop, Trip, Soul, Blues, Rap, Prog, Metal … you name it, kudos are still being thrown at his holy shrine.

Evidence One: I Got A Feeling In My Body
Led by a rumbling, rolling and thumping bass line who knew that Elvis was this get-down funky? Appears that Elvis was reaching way back to his church roots by the shout-back vocals, the shivering tambourine and the whole head-nodding’, smiling, hands up in the air vibe as this one really takes off halfway through. Elvis at his growling best panting half phrases – you can almost see those sweaty, quivering lips of his as he takes it home.

Evidence Two: I’ll Hold You In My Heart (Till I Can Hold You In My Arms)
Standard 4/4 blues with the requisite and steady tap-tap-tap on the cymbals, methodical walking bass line and smokey-room piano. However, what sets this apart is the main instrument that is wielded so powerfully – namely, the vocals. That is exactly what lifts and gives this plea for love its weight in gold. Witness him digging deep within at 2:00 and beyond. That is the difference between anyone else singing and Elvis singing. It’s humbling to hear these every once in a while just to think on that point.

Evidence Three: A Little Less Conversation
Lastly, I can’t help but drop this rave. Just because I enjoy tough guy James Cann (Godfather, El Dorado, Misery, Honeymoon in Vegas, Elf), I watch “Las Vegas’ once in a while, and this is the song that serves as its theme. It’s my once a week treat on the vast wasteland. But, come on – this is a shocker track!

Written by Mac Davis and Billy Strange for yet another failed E.P. film in 1968, it has enjoyed a robust new life after a remix version by Junkie XL that’s been included in various commercials and in a few movies. What a great remix though – I’ll never be able to shake the images I have etched permanently in my head while is song is playing – sequined bikini bottoms shaking freely, hot dice being thrown, umbrella drinks being served to the beautiful people at the shimmering pool and a night-time ocean of neon. A rare aligning of the solar planets when you hear a theme song on TV that makes you stand up and dance for the thirty seconds. Thankfully, we have the full 3:31!

Elvis: I Got A Feeling In My Body
From: Elvis By The Presleys [2006]

Elvis: I’ll Hold You In My Heart (Till I Can Hold You In My Arms)
From: Elvis By The Presleys [2006]

Elvis: A Little Less Conversation
From: Elvis By The Presleys [2006]

P.S. A callback to Homercat at Good Rockin' Tonight who mentioned me in his post of Tuesday, October 17th, concerning a comments I made about a song that weirded and creeped me out back in the day. He’s got a great set running on the Halloween theme with songs that are not the usual run of the mill. Make sure to get there.

Friday, October 13, 2006

John Lennon

This past week, on October 9th, John Winston Ono Lennon would have been 66. 66! That’s past retirement age, right?

His last album, which hit me right during those influential years, remains to this day the most probable reason why my musical taste continues to grow in maturity. As he refused to continue to churn out top 40, or reach for past glories, his songs were about growing old (Living On Borrowed Time), staying in love with his spouse (Woman) and exploring new musical boundaries (Walking On Thin Ice).

I have literally, hundreds of hours of bootleg demos, alternate takes and differently mixed tracks by the master, but in honor, I want to post others giving it up for John.

Evidence One: I Found Out – The Red Hot Chili Peppers
A song that stripped away the chunks of false ideas about who Lennon is to us, and what we are to him. Such a good twist on this that I had to include it though I’m not a huge fan of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. And yet again, a lesson on how to make an original your own – a lesson John would be proud of.

I seen through junkies
I've been through it all
I've seen religon from Jesus to Paul
Don't let them fool you with dope and cocaine
No one can harm you - feel your own pain!
I found out!

Evidence Two: Mother - Shelby Lynne
Coming off the first album I ever owned (! - truth) this hammers one burdensome wallop of emotion. I don’t know Shelby Lynn, but her version, when I saw it when the show premiered, actually brought a tear to my eye. As with it’s original predecessor, it is minimalist and stark and as raw a twitching nerve ending to begin with then adds guitar, modulation and strings. As riviting a performance as you will find anywhere.

Mother, you had me but I never had you
I wanted you but you didn't want me
So I got to tell you

Mama don't go
Daddy come home

Evidence Three: Cold Turkey – Cheap Trick
Feel the stink of withdrawal and the howl of agony that teeters on the edge of rage and then in a very controlled manner is pushed into the fury of hell.

Say nothing – turn it up, lean back and feel your mouth foam.

Rick Neilson was used in John’s original version of “I’m Losing You” but regrettably was not used in the final mix.

He got them back for that on this one.

Thirty-six hours
Rolling in pain
Praying to someone
Free me again

Oh Ill be a good boy
Please make me well
I promise you anything
Get me out of this hell

Cold turkey has got me on the run

Evidence Four: Come Together – Craig David
An acoustic and fresh takedown of the original, that’s engaging and funky. I hadn’t known of this kid before I heard this version. He adds a tongue-tripping shout out in the middle that’s invigorating and over the top. Clearly, a worthwhile listen and precisely why I included it here for educational purposes.

He bag production
He got walrus gumboot
He got ono sideboard
He one spinal cracker
He got feet down below his knee
Hold you in his armchair
You can feel his disease

Come together, right now, over me

Sixty six? As a maturing songwriter/performer, he pierced the unknown, charging from “Love Me Do” to “Grow Old With Me”.

And, what are we, as more mature music consumers left with today?

The Red Hot Chili Peppers: I Found Out
From: Come Together - A Night for John Lennon's Words and Music [2002]

Shelby Lynne: Mother
From: Come Together - A Night for John Lennon's Words and Music [2002]

Cheap Trick: Cold Turkey
From: Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon [1995]

Craig David: Come Together
From: Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon [1995]

Friday, October 06, 2006


What ever happened to …?

Long after they have stopped becoming relevant, Chicago continues to churn out album after album. It seems that every year Chicago has yet another album with a higher roman numeral after its name. Look at it this way though – somebody has to be buying in order for them to continue to churn out album after album.

But, in the beginning …

Chicago was a powerful and potent elixir of horns, biting, socially relevant lyrics and a crew of musicians that were second to none. This mix was especially apparently true within the confines of the first handful of albums. They were even considered a blast of cool, fresh air in the time and era when the prevailing mood was that the guitar was god. So, in other words, Chicago helped to provide an alternative type of music to the masses.

They wrote sharp and cutting gems that drove rock, jazz, classical, pop and anything else they got their talented hands on, into an amalgamation of early FM album/spilling into AM singles that we all eagerly bought up (OK, stole and hid from our older siblings).

As a testament to this and to further the proof, they released their first album – the very first offering from a then unknown band – as a double album! It went gold and then platinum. Someone tell me – what other bands in the past have done that successfully? Who lays down solid, hard cash today for a double album from an unknown entity? I said today?

Evidence One: South California Purples
One of the very first songs I learned to play as a budding beat crazed teen. That aside, this is one of those mini-jams that raise the bar of excellence on this thype of platform. Organ, fuzz bass, sweltering horns, masterful vocals and maniacal sticks. And yes, they did manage to get Terry Kath’s rippin’ guitar solo into this one. It's sad that Kath later accidentally killed himself with a handgun, because forever after his death, Chicago, without Kath's say in band direction, would begin their journey toward pop ballad hell. OK, I admit I’m rough there.

Listen to homage to John Lennon at 4:22. Take this one and let it meander to and fro while taking care of other things – don’t stare at it while its playing, just walk away and let it ring out.

Evidence Two: I’m A Man
Sometimes a band can elevate itself not only on what it has to offer in terms of originality, but in how masterfully it can bend, manipulate, mold and mash a cover till it becomes their very own. Such is the case with this one, originally penned by Steve Winwood while in The Spencer Davis Band. Right from the beginning clutching bass riff, into the shuffling drum, the scratch guitar, the off beat percussion (times 2!), to the right use of the tambourine, right to the bulging organ and the fade-in guitar parts … wow – layer upon layer upon layer … delicious.

“If I had my choice of matter
I would rather be with cats
All engrossed in mental chatter
Showin’ where your mind is at
While relating to each other
How strong your love can be
By resisting all the good times with each groovy chick we see”

Try to restrain your air guitar hand when Kath’s first swellings comes in at 1:08. Teamwork going on here with vocals being traded between Kath and Cetera (he, the later king of junior high prom themes). Not a weak moment going on this track. A perfect stroke was to let drummer Danny Seraphine slap the skins silly beginning at 3:13 for a bit. Usually, when the drummer takes the lead and begins a solo, it’s an automatic signal and opportunity for me to get up and go whiz – turns out to be a real yawn-fest most times. But here, I’ll be damned if it doesn’t fit right in perfectly. But, not content to simply let it beat you ceaslessly after its use has expired, they once again masterfully proceed to build layer after layer.

Peel away the layers of consternation that you've built up over the years and pull down those first few Chicago platters. You'll once again realize just how damn great they are.

Chicago Transit Authority: South California Purples
From: Chicago Transit Authority [April 1969]

Chicago Transit Authority: I’m A Man
From: Chicago Transit Authority [April 1969]

Unexpectedly, Blogger is now posting images. Well, I did find out, after experimenting, that I had to join the new Beta version first. Hey - put up a sign somewhere and let me know about this stuff next time, will ya?