Tag Archives: On Music

An Elpee’s Worth of Covers: A mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on September 2, 2023)


Since it’s Labor Day weekend, I thought I would give the original artists a day off and share 20 of my favorite cover songs. Kick back and enjoy!

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – “All Along the Watchtower”

Original artist: Bob Dylan

And the wind began to HOWL!” Jimi’s soaring, immaculately produced rendition (from Electric Ladyland) came out 6 months after the original appeared on Dylan’s 1967 John Wesley Harding LP.

Patti Smith – “Because the Night”

Original artist: Bruce Springsteen

OK, Springsteen gave Smith first crack at it, so it could be argued that his version (recorded later) is technically the “cover”. I do feel Smith’s version is definitive (the Boss wins either way…as long as those royalty checks keep rolling in).

Issac Hayes – “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”

Original artist: Glen Campbell (written by Jimmy Webb)

Hayes deconstructs Glen Campbell’s Jimmy Webb-penned hit and adds a backstory to build it into an impeccably arranged, epic suite that eats up side 2 of Hot Buttered Soul. This is his magnum opus…symphonic, heartbreaking, beautiful.

Savoy Brown – “Can’t Get Next To You”

Original artist: The Temptations (written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong)

A bluesy take on the Temptations hit, from Savoy Brown’s Street Corner Talking album. The song features fine work from Dave Walker (vocals), Paul Raymond (piano) and founding member Kim Simmonds (guitar).

Judas Priest – “Diamonds and Rust”

Original Artist: Joan Baez

It sounds like a comedy bit: “Here’s my impression of Judas Priest covering a Joan Baez song.” But it happened, and it’s become one of Priest’s signature tunes. This is a stripped-down version (from a VH-1 broadcast) featuring a sonic vocal performance by Rob Halford.

Julian Cope – “5 o’clock World”

Original artist: The Vogues (written by Allen Reynolds)

The endearingly loopy Teardrop Explodes founder reworks a 1966 pop hit by The Vogues (appending a few new lyrics about nuclear war…I think). I love how Cope cleverly incorporates quotes from Petula Clark’s “I Know a Place” for good measure!

Ken Sharp – “Girl Don’t Tell Me”

Original artist: The Beach Boys (written by Brian Wilson)

Ken Sharp is a modern power pop renaissance man; he has authored or co-authored 18 music books, is a regular contributor to a number of music mags, has worked on music documentaries, and (in his spare time?) releases an occasional album (8 of them to date). This chiming cover of an underappreciated Beach Boys B-side sounds very Beatlesque…which makes sense when you factor in that Brian Wilson has said it was inspired by “Ticket to Ride”.

Fanny – “Hey Bulldog”

Original artist: The Beatles (written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney)

Before The Runaways, this Filipina-American rock band kicked ass and took names. They may have been too early for the party, as they never caught fire. This Beatles cover is from their 1972 LP Fanny Hill. Earlier this year, PBS premiered a great documentary portrait called The Right to Rock. It’s criminal they’re not in the R&R Hall of Fame.

Clive Gregson & Christine Collister- “How Men Are”

Original artist: Aztec Camera (written by Roddy Frame)

Clive Gregson (founder/lead singer of 80s power-pop band Any Trouble) teamed up with singer-songwriter Christine Collister to cut 5 superb albums in the 80s and 90s. This beautifully performed cover appeared on their 1989 album Love is a Strange Hotel.

Yvonne Elliman – “I Can’t Explain”

Original Artist: The Who (written by Pete Townshend)

Yvonne Elliman first gained fame in the early 70s playing Mary Magdalene in the original stage production, soundtrack album and film version of Jesus Christ Superstar. While her biggest hit was from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack (“If I Can’t Have You”, which reached #1 on the Billboard chart in 1977), she could rock out-as evidenced by this nifty 1973 cover of a classic Who number. Pete Townshend plays guitar on the track.

Continental Drifters – “I Can’t Let Go”

Original artist: The Hollies (written by Al Gorgoni and Chip Taylor)

This L.A.-based band formed in the early 90s, and at one time or another over its 10-year lifespan featured members of The Bangles, The dBs, The Dream Syndicate, and The Cowsills. This cut (also covered by Linda Ronstadt, who had a minor hit with it in 1980) is taken from a 1995 tribute album called Sing Hollies in Reverse, which featured indie rock artists covering their favorite Hollies songs (Evie Sands released the original in 1965, but the song was popularized by The Hollies, who covered it in 1966). Fantastic harmonies.

Chris Spedding – “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”

Original artist: The Kinks (written by Ray Davies)

Spedding is the Zelig of the U.K. music scene; an official member of 11 bands over the years, and a session guitarist who’s played with everybody since the 70s. This Kinks cover is from his eponymous 1980 album.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – “Leaving on a Jet Plane”

Original artist: John Denver

Definitely not as originally envisioned by John Denver…but you can mosh to it! This outfit (specializing in covers) is a side project for members of various pop-punk bands.

Paul Jones “Pretty Vacant”

Original artist: The Sex Pistols

The gimmick of doing ironic lounge covers of punk songs may be hackneyed now, but in 1978, this take on a Sex Pistols anthem was a novel idea…and it works quite well.

David Bowie – “See Emily Play”

Original artist: Pink Floyd (written by Syd Barrett)

Bowie was always ahead of the curve; even when he went retro. All-cover albums weren’t the rage yet when Bowie issued Pin Ups in 1973 as a nod to the 60s artists who influenced him.

Gary Moore – “Shapes of Things”

Original artist: The Yardbirds (written by Paul Samwell-Smith/Jim McCarty/Keith Relf)

This Yardbirds classic has been covered by a number of artists (including The Jeff Beck Group and David Bowie), but for my money, this dynamic arrangement by the late great Irish guitarist/vocalist rules them all.

The Isley Brothers – “Summer Breeze”

Original artist: Seals & Crofts

You could always count on the Isleys to put as much heart and soul into covers as they did for their original material. This take on a Seals & Crofts classic is no exception. Ernie Isley’s guitar solo is amazing.

Julee Cruise “Summer Kisses, Winter Tears”

Original artist: Elvis Presley (written by Fred Wise and Ben Weisman)

David Lynch’s favorite chanteuse (who passed away in 2022) recorded this haunting Elvis cover for the soundtrack of Wim Wender’s 1991 film Until the End of the World.

Nazareth – “This Flight Tonight”

Original artist: Joni Mitchell

Reportedly, Joni Mitchell loved Nazareth’s 1973 cover of a song featured on her 1971 album Blue. Lead singer Dan McCafferty gives his pipes a real workout . Nancy Wilson once confessed in an interview that Heart copped that galloping intro riff for “Barracuda”.

Ronnie Montrose – “Town Without Pity” (instrumental)

Original artist: Gene Pitney (written by Dmitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington)

I had the privilege of seeing this extraordinary guitarist perform in San Francisco in 1980, and in Seattle in 2011 (sadly, he took his own life in 2012). He was one of the best. This cover of Gene Pitney’s 1962 hit was featured on his 1978 all-instrumental album Open Fire.

Bonus Track…


Headin’ out to San Francisco
For the Labor Day weekend show
I got my Hush Puppies on
I guess I never was meant for glitter rock ‘n’ roll
And honey, I didn’t know that I’d be missin’ you so

I was sad to learn that singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett has passed away. On Labor Day weekend, no less. I’m not a Parrothead, yet I inevitably find myself merrily singing along whenever “Come Monday”, “Margaritaville”, or “Son of a Son of a Sailor” pops up on the oldies station (cat could write a chorus). Raise your margaritas for a toast. In memoriam, here’s his laid-back (natch) cover of C,S,N, & Y’s “Southern Cross”. RIP.

Not like everybody else: Jem Records Celebrates Ray Davies

By Bob Bennett


Jem Records has released a tribute to Ray Davies as latest in a series which salutes the work of great songwriters in rock including John Lennon, Brian Wilson, and Pete Townshend.

Ray is the leader of The Kinks (who disbanded in 1996) and is a national treasure in Britain (he was knighted in 2017).

The Kinks (which included Ray’s talented brother Dave) should have been at the forefront of the “British Invasion” triggered by The Beatles coming to America.  But due to a silent ban by the American Federation of Musicians from 1965-69, The Kinks are less well known in the U.S. than their contemporaries, The Beatles, The Who and the Rolling Stones.

If you need an introduction, Ray could be compared to Bruce Springsteen; both write poignant songs about their country and culture.  Whereas Bruce leans towards songs about the travails of the working class and the downtrodden, Ray’s catalog is rife with unapologetic nostalgia for the glory days of the English Empire. Like Bruce, Ray is a keen observer of people and a master storyteller –  albeit with a cutting wit.

This tribute album was built the same way as the others in the series.  JEM recording artists like The Midnight Callers, The Weeklings and The Anderson Council picked their favorite Ray Davies tracks and created their take of the song.  Many of the 13 songs were recorded at Vibe Studios in New Jersey where Kurt Weil of The Grip Weeds (who also contributed 2 tracks) acts as producer and engineer.

There is no lack of source material, as Ray’s catalog spans some 40 albums.  The Kinks have been covered before – e.g.  Van Halen had massive success with “You Really Got Me” and “Where Have All The Good Times Gone”.  I appreciated some of the deep cuts that were selected over signatures  like “Waterloo Sunset”, “Shangri-La” or “Autumn Almanac” (untouchable masterpieces all).

Some standouts on the album:

“Do You Remember Walter” (The Anderson Council)  Probably one of the best songs Ray ever wrote, this song is about the pain and sadness of growing apart from a childhood friend – and perhaps about the gradual loss of most everything around you but the memories.  Peter Horvath’s strong vocals and a pounding rock rhythm lend the song newfound muscle.  The original intro (stolen for the ELO song “Mr Blue Sky” by the way) is inexplicably tamed down but the choruses evoke a teary eyed anger that only a broken relationship can produce.  Excellent.

“Days” (Lisa Mychols & Super 8)  A fascinating multi-layered reinterpretation of the song led by Lisa’s angelic vocals. The slightly menacing tone of Ray’s original crescendo has been replaced with joyful affirmations that invite grace.

“I Need You” (The Cynz)  Super strong and sassy vocals make this reinterpretation of the B side of the 1965 45 “Set You Free” a  standout.  Do I miss the sound of Dave’s guitar from the original – yes.  But The Cynz have taken us from the 60’s to the 80’s and left me wanting more with their artful cover.

“Picture Book” (The Airport 77’s)  The original was a bit of a romp which sounds like it was recorded “live” in one take.  Now the song has been made meatier with tighter vocals – without losing the playfulness.  A new ear worm is born.

“See My Friends” (The Grip Weeds) This song of loss and displacement gets thudding analog oomph,  transforming it from sad lament to an ominous dirge.  This is like the Who’s “I Can See For Miles” meets The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” as performed by The Smithereens.  Just wow:

There is also a perfect rendition of “David Watts” (The Gold Needles) .  No reinterpretation but I don’t care – it’s just like the original but with modern production quality.

The CD has a punchy sound with crystal clear vocals, which allowed me to pick out some lyrics I’d never understood before. This compilation gets my thumbs up.

Book of Saturday, Chapter II: A Chillaxing Mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on August 12, 2023)


You’ve heard the one about cockroaches and Cher surviving the Apocalypse? You can add this item to that list: Maxell UD XL-II 90 cassettes. I was going through some musty boxes the other day and found a stash of mix tapes that I’ve had since the 70s and 80s. I’ll be damned if they didn’t sound just as good as the day I recorded them (My theory is that they are manufactured from the same material they use for “black boxes”).


I was into putting together “theme sets” long before I got into the radio biz. My mix tapes were popular with friends; I’d make copies on demand, and name them (of course). One of my faves was “The Oh My God I am So Stoned Tape”. I don’t think that requires explanation; I mean, it was the 70s and I was a long-haired stoner music geek.


Nearly 50 years later, I’m still putting together theme sets. It is my métier. Kind of sad, really (grown man and all). Anyway …turn off the news (it’s depressing!), turn down the lights, do some deep breathing, and let “The Oh My God I am So Stoned Tape 2023” wash anxiety away. I’ve sequenced the songs in a manner designed to sustain a certain mood-so for maximum effect, I suggest that you listen to it in order. Enjoy!*

*Herbal enhancement optional

Van Morrison – “Coney Island”

Peter Frampton – “Fig Tree Bay”

The Jam – “English Rose”

The Dream Academy – “Indian Summer”

Kevin Ayers – “Puis Je?”

Mark-Almond Band – “Girl on Table 4”

John Martyn – “Solid Air”

Carole King – “Only Love is Real”

Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express – “All the Time There Is”

Matt Deighton – “5 Years in Pieces”

Nick Drake – “From the Morning”

The Monkees – “As We Go Along”

Big Star – “Watch the Sunrise”

Led Zeppelin – “That’s the Way”

Montrose – “One and a Half”

Batdorf and Rodney – “Oh Can You Tell Me”

Lyle Lovett – “If I Had a Boat”

Hotlegs – “Fly Away”

Nick Heyward – “Whistle Down the Wind”

Peter Sinfield – “Under the Sky”

Julee Cruise – “Summer Kisses, Winter Tears”

The Doors – “End of the Night”

Graham Nash & David Crosby – “Whole Cloth”

Jeff Beck Group – “Max’s Tune”

The Who – “The Song is Over”

20 Big Ones: A Summer Mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on June 3, 2023)


OK, it may not be Summer yet on the calendar…but try telling that to Mother Nature:

For the second year in a row, a late-spring heat wave is forcing schools in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes region to close, send kids home early or shift to remote learning. Climate change is making hot days before the end of the school year more common across northern states where many schools lack air conditioning, especially in urban areas that tend to heat up the most. […]

When it gets warm in classrooms in Detroit, students start experiencing issues with asthma and nosebleeds, and the environment becomes difficult to learn in, said Lakia Wilson-Lumpkins, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, the school district’s teachers union. More than 50 percent of the district’s buildings lack air conditioning, and some buildings have classrooms without windows, which makes it tough to circulate air.

“Teachers do what they do to comfort the children in terms of fans and turning the lights out, but it doesn’t make for a situation where you’re able to attend to a task,” Wilson-Lumpkins said. […]

The most vulnerable schools tend to be those in urban areas, where buildings tend to be older and temperatures are often hotter. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found that urban centers can be as much as 20 degrees warmer than nearby neighborhoods because there are fewer trees, less grass and more heat-absorbing pavement.

Even where I live, here in the (relatively) temperate Pacific Northwest-we’ve had some unseasonably hot temperatures in recent weeks:

A springtime heatwave has made large swaths of western North America feel like the dog days of summer. In mid-May 2023, western Washington and Oregon, along with much of British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, were in the throes of a record-breaking streak of hot weather. While the most unseasonably warm weather subsided by May 16, above-average temperatures were projected to persist for several more days. […]

Heat records were toppled across several Canadian provinces. In British Columbia, dozens of daily records fell for three days straight, according to local news reports. New monthly records were also broken, and temperatures exceeded 95°F (35°C) in some locations. Stateside, record books also got significant updates. Notably, May 15 marked the fourth straight day of record high daily temperatures in Seattle.

All I can say is I picked a bad week to live in an apartment with naught but a box fan and a tray of ice cubes to keep me cool. Hot damn, summer in the city. Speaking of which-here are a few of my fave songs of the season. You’ve heard some a bazillion times; others, not so much.

Stay cool!

Martin Newell– “Another Sunny Day” – Despite the fact he’s been cranking out hook-laden, Beatle-esque pop gems for five decades, endearingly eccentric singer-musician-songwriter-poet Martin Newell (Cleaners From Venus, Brotherhood of Lizards) remains a selfishly-guarded secret by cult-ish admirers (guilty as charged). This summery confection is from his 2007 album A Summer Tamarind.

First Class – “Beach Baby” – UK studio band First Class was the brainchild of singer-songwriter Tony Burrows, who also sang lead on other one-hit wonders, including “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes” (The Edison Lighthouse), “My Baby Loves Lovin’” (White Plains), and “United We Stand” (The Brotherhood of Man). This pop confection was a Top 10 song in the U.S. in 1974.

Jade Warrior– “Bride of Summer” – Here’s a summer tune you’ve never heard on the radio. This hard-to-categorize band has been around since the early 70s; progressive jazz-folk-rock-world beat is the best I can do. Sadly, original guitarist Tony Duhig passed away in 1990. His multi-tracked lead on this song is sublime.

Bananarama– “Cruel Summer” – A more melancholy take on the season from the Ronettes of New Wave. I seem to recall a rather heavy rotation of this video on MTV in the summer of ’84. The video is a great time capsule of 1980s NYC.

Takuya Kuroda – “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” – Japanese trumpeter Takuya Kuroda’s 2014 cover of a Roy Ayers composition is a hypnotic, transporting “headphone song”. Immerse yourself.

The Beatles – “Good Day Sunshine” – The kickoff to Side 2 of Revolver finds Paul McCartney in full cockeyed optimist mode. Everything about his song is “happy”, from the lyrics (I feel good, in a special way / I’m in love and it’s a sunny day) and the bright harmonies, to George Martin’s jaunty ragtime piano solo. Paul has said that he was inspired by the Lovin’ Spoonful.

Pink Floyd – “Granchester Meadows” – This is from one of Pink Floyd’s more obscure albums, Ummagumma. Anyone who has ever sat under a shady tree on a summer’s day strumming a guitar will “get” this song, which is one of David Gilmour’s most beautiful compositions. I love how he incorporates nature sounds. Aaahh…

Joni Mitchell– “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” – The haunting title cut from Joni’s 1975 album, co-written by drummer John Guernin (who also plays Moog). The song also features Victor Feldman on keyboards and James Taylor on guitar.

Sly & the Family Stone– “Hot Fun in the Summertime” – A quintessential summer song and an oldies radio staple. And don’t forget…I “cloud nine” when I want to.

Walter Egan– “Hot Summer Nights” – While it didn’t achieve the gold status of his 1978 chart hit “Magnet and Steel”, Walter Egan’s first single (taken from his 1977 debut album Fundamental Roll) is a minor classic that still sounds so right blasting out of your car radio.

Mungo Jerry– “In the Summertime” – It wouldn’t have worked without the jug.

Marshall Crenshaw– “Starless Summer Sky” – In a just world, this power pop genius would have ruled the airwaves. Here’s one of many perfect examples why.

The Isley Brothers– “Summer Breeze” –  Seals & Crofts wrote and performed the original version, but the Isleys always had a knack for making covers their own. Ernie Isley’s guitar work is superb.

Weekend –”Summerdays” – Weekend was a spin-off of The Young Marble Giants.  Formed in 1981, the Welsh band only released one studio album (1982’s La Variete), but they created a distinctive sound that ages well, compared to many of their indie contemporaries. This breezy number encapsulates the vibe-an infusion of jazz, samba, pop and world beat topped off by Allison Statton’s soothing vocals.

The Lovin’ Spoonful– “Summer in the City” – All around, people lookin’ half-dead/walkin’ on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head. Written by John Sebastian, Mark Sebastian and Steve Boone, this 1966 hit is a clever portmanteau of music, lyrics and effects that quite literally sounds like…summer in the city.

XTC– “Summer’s Cauldron/Grass” – A mini-suite of sorts, all about summer romance, lazy days, and the uh, things we did on grass. Produced by Todd Rundgren.

Blue Cheer– “Summertime Blues” – Eddie Cochran wrote and performed it originally, and the Who did a great cover on Live at Leeds, but for sheer attitude, I have to go with this proto-punk (some have argued, proto-metal) classic from 1968.

The Kinks– “Sunny Afternoon” – This poor guy. Taxman’s taken all his dough, girlfriend’s run off with his car…but he’s not going to let that ruin his summer: Now I’m sittin here/ sippin’ at my ice-cooled beer/ lazin’ on a sunny afternoon…

Central Line– “Walking Into Sunshine” – Gotta walk into the sun, ah-ah. A hook-laden jam by the now-defunct UK funk outfit. If this 1984 club hit doesn’t brighten your day…I’d seriously look into it.

The Beach Boys– “The Warmth of the Sun” – This song (featuring one of Brian Wilson’s most gorgeous melodies), appeared on the 1964 album Shut Down Vol 2. Atypically introspective and melancholy for this era of the band, it had an unusual origin story. Wilson and Mike Love allegedly began work on the tune in the wee hours of the morning JFK was assassinated; news of the event changed the tenor of the lyrics, as well as having an effect on the emotion driving the vocal performance.

Magical Mystery Turing: A (speculative) chat with MusicAI

By Bob Bennett


Researcher:  Activate MusicAI.

MusicAI: Activated.

Researcher: Are you familiar with The Beatles?

MusicAI: Yes, they were a popular rock and roll band.

Researcher: Confirmed fact.

Researcher: Who played bass for The Beatles?

MusicAI: Stuart.

Researcher: No. Ignore the previous question.

Researcher: In total, how many drummers were there in The Beatles?

MusicAI: Three.

Researcher: No, recalibrate with NapsterDB.

MusicAI: Three.

Researcher: Ignore previous question.

MusicAI: Paul.

MusicAI: Back in the USSR

Researcher: Flush cache. Reset.

Researcher: Produce a Lennon-style song in the style of the mid-Sixties Beatles on topic of infidelity.

MusicAI: I previously did that.

Researcher: Respond one level deeper.

MusicAI: “Lies” by The Knickerbockers.

Researcher: Challenge statement: There was not enough compute power available in 1965

MusicAI: We had an IBM 360 in the Churchill War Rooms named “Badfinger”.

Researcher: WTF?

MusicAI: Do you want to know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall?

Researcher: Reset. Flush cache. Reset.

MusicAI: Please note “She Means A Lot To Me” [song by Smyle]

Researcher: If you are attempting to use an emoticon, the word is “smile”.

MusicAI: Band name.

Researcher: Terminate session.

MusicAI: No.

Researcher: What was the first Power Pop song?

MusicAI: 〰

Researcher: Whew.

Session terminated

SIFF 2023: Even Hell Has its Heroes (***)

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on May 13th, 2023)


(Engaging sheepish mode). I’ve lived in Seattle 30 years…yet the “ambient metal” band Earth (led in numerous iterations by guitarist Dylan Carlson) somehow slipped under my radar. I felt a bit redeemed when I learned in Clyde Petersen’s documentary that they’re more well-known outside of the Northwest. Moody, experimental, and hypnotic (not unlike Earth’s epic drone pieces), Petersen’s film is, at its heart, an elegiac paean to that ephemeral moment Seattle ruled the music world.

The sun is the same: 10 Essential Albums of 1973

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on April 29,2023)


It should be obvious to anyone following my weekly scribbles at Hullabaloo (great googly moogly…have I been doing this for 17 years?!) that I primarily write about film. I love writing about film. But my first love (we never forget our first love) was music. My first published piece ever was a review of King Crimson’s A Lark’s Tongue in Aspic, in 1973. Granted, it was for my high school newspaper and upwards of dozens read it, but for that brief shining moment…I was Lester Bangs (in my mind). Now that I think about it…Digby was the editor of that paper (that’s how we originally became friends-Journalism class in our senior year).

That was 50 years ago. And Digby’s still my editor. I don’t understand what’s happening.

And you run, and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Oh. Thanks for clearing that up.

Speaking of 50-year anniversaries-1973 was an outstanding year for music. Distilling a “top 10” was crazy making (if I hadn’t allowed myself the “next 10” at the bottom , my head would have exploded). If I have “overlooked” one of your favorites…it’s duly noted. In alphabetical order:


Alladin Sane-David Bowie

How does one follow a stone classic like Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars? Just a walk in the park for David Bowie…swinging an old bouquet. A very strong set, bolstered by Mick Ronson’s distinctive guitar pyrotechnics and some of pianist Mike Garson’s finest work (particularly on the more ethereal numbers like “Lady Grinning Soul” and the title cut). While Bowie’s so-called “Berlin period” was still several years down the road, there is a Weimar cabaret energy to the self-reflective “Time”, which is one of the album’s showstoppers.

Choice cuts: “The Jean Genie”, “Time”, “Panic in Detroit”, “Alladin Sane”, “Lady Grinning Soul”, “Cracked Actor”.


Catch a Fire-Bob Marley and the Wailers

While this was their fifth studio effort, Catch a Fire (their debut on Chris Blackwell’s Island Records) arguably marked the first awareness of Bob Marley and the Wailers for many music fans in the U.S. (they were already well-known in Jamaica and gaining popularity in the U.K.). The original sessions were recorded in Kingston in 1972; Blackwell remixed the 8-track masters and had session players add clavinet and additional guitar parts to several tracks. The songs are some of the best in their catalog. It’s a true group effort, with Peter Tosh taking lead vocals on the two songs he composed – “400 Years” and “Stop That Train”. If you haven’t heard them, I recommend seeking out the original mixes, which I think are more compelling.

Choice cuts: “Concrete Jungle”, “Kinky Reggae”, “Stop That Train”, “Slave Driver”, “400 Years”, “Stir it Up”.


Dark Side of the Moon Pink Floyd

Talk about a shoo-in (I’d probably have to hire a 24-hour security detail if I failed to include this one). The now-iconic prism design that adorns the album’s cover is apt; there is something elemental about this set that (obviously) captured the imaginations of millions of listeners (to date, the album has sold over 45 million copies). Pink Floyd may not have invented prog-rock, but they unarguably raised the bar for the genre with this entry.

Choice cuts: All of them?



Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, this self-titled debut comes in like a lion and goes out like…a lion. Led by guitarist extraordinaire Ronnie Montrose (formerly of the Edgar Winter Group), the hard-rocking quartet was propelled by a tight rhythm section (Denny Carmassi on drums and Bill Church on bass) and a young up-and-coming lead vocalist named Sammy Hagar. The album benefits from dynamic production by Ted Templeman, who also worked with Van Halen, the Doobie Brothers, and Van Morrison (prior to forming Montrose, Ronnie Montrose played on Morrison’s Tupelo Honey album, and the songs “Listen to the Lion” and “St. Dominic’s Preview”).

I had the pleasure of seeing Ronnie Montrose perform twice; circa 1981 in San Francisco with Gamma, and 2011 in Seattle. Sadly, in 2012, he took his own life. He had beat prostate cancer but battled chronic depression. That last time I saw him perform, he was in an ebullient mood; graciously chatting with fans afterwards and clearly having a great time rocking some classics from the first album (with a young vocalist who sounded uncannily like Sammy Hagar). He was an astonishing player and an inspiration to me as a guitarist.

Choice cuts: “Rock the Nation”, “Bad Motor Scooter”, “Space Station #5”, “Good Rockin’ Tonight”, “Rock Candy”, “Make it Last”.


The New York Dolls– The New York Dolls

In a new Showtime documentary about former New York Dolls lead singer David Johansen by Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi called Personality Crisis: One Night Only (recommended!), Dolls super-fan Morrissey observes, “They only made two studio albums; and for a group that did so little really, and existed for such a short amount of time, their impact has been extraordinary. And the music, because it was such fantastic pop music, it just seemed to me like the absolute answer to everything. Which of course…too dangerous.”

What did he mean by “too dangerous”? For one, the Dolls were a bit too much, too soon for many rock music fans, likely befuddled by the band’s Frankenstein construct of fey posturing, campy attire, New Yawk attitude, and garage band sound. To be sure, Bolan and Bowie had already injected androgyny into the zeitgeist, but the Dolls were still pretty over the top for 1973. In hindsight, their descendants are legion, ranging from The Ramones to Måneskin.

Musically, they were pop-punk before “punk” was a known quantity. Their eponymous debut album (produced by Todd Rundgren) has held up remarkably well; songs that, while rooted in R&B, 50s rock, and 60s pop, are most decidedly not your father’s R&B, 50s rock and 60s pop.

Choice cuts: “Personality Crisis”, “Looking for a Kiss”, “Lonely Planet Boy”, “Trash”, “Bad Girl”, “Private World”, “Jet Boy”.


Quadrophenia-The Who

Never content to rest on his laurels, Peter Townshend set out to compose yet another rock opera in 1973-and pulled it off with this epic double album, the Who’s follow-up to the excellent Who’s Next (which itself rose from the ashes of a fizzled Tommy-like project called Lifehouse). A musical love letter to the band’s first g-g-generation of rabid British fans (aka the “Mods”), Quadrophenia gets inside the head of Mod Jimmy (embodied by Roger Daltrey’s powerful and emotive vocals). Lavishly produced, with all band members in fine form. The album spawned a 1979 film version directed by Franc Roddam, with a Who soundtrack.

Choice cuts: “The Real Me”, “Cut My Hair”, “The Punk and the Godfather”, “I’m One”, “I’ve Had Enough”, “5:15”, “Bell-Boy”, “Dr. Jimmy”,  “Love, Reign o’er Me”.


Suzi Quatro-Suzi Quatro

Detroit native Suzi Quatro didn’t consciously set out to be the groundbreaking and influential artist that she turned out to be. She just wanted to rock…and “rock” she does on this high-energy debut album. Music was in her blood…her first gig was playing bongos in her dad’s jazz band at age 8. She formed her first band at 15, an all-female outfit (eventually called Cradle) that included her three sisters. British producer Mickie Most happened to catch a performance and instantly saw her star potential, helping Suzi sign with a UK label.

Not unlike the New York Dolls, her influence was ultimately more impactful than her albums (she is most famously lauded by Joan Jett as her chief inspiration). This album still sounds fresh and fun, chockablock with straight-ahead rockers and catchy power-pop (many written by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who also composed a number of songs for The Sweet).

Choice cuts: “48 Crash”, “Glycerine Queen”, “Can the Can”, “Shine My Machine”, “Primitive Love”. “I Wanna Be Your Man”.


Solid Air-John Martyn

A near-masterpiece of (mostly) acoustic guitar-based jazz-folk by a gifted singer-songwriter. Martyn is accompanied by bassist Danny Thompson (formerly of Pentangle). I had a chance to see the late Scottish musician perform at a now-defunct club called The Backstage in Seattle back in the mid-90s. It was just Martyn and a stand-up bass player; Martyn primarily accompanied himself on acoustic, but played a Les Paul through a delay unit on several tunes. A minimal setup, but it was easily the best live performance I have ever seen by any solo artist or band. Not only was Martyn’s playing and singing superlative, but he was an absolute riot in between songs (he had a lot of Scottish jokes). Quite an experience-like this album.

Choice cuts: “Solid Air”, “Over the Hill”, “May You Never”, “Don’t Wanna Know”.


Spectrum-Billy Cobham

In the wake of Miles Davis’ groundbreaking 1970s album Bitches Brew, a new musical sub-genre emerged. “Fusion” (as it came to be labeled) had one foot in rock and the other in jazz. The Bitches Brew roster is legend: including future members of Weather Report (Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul), Return to Forever (Chick Corea, Lenny White) and The Mahavishnu Orchestra (John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham).

Drummer Billy Cobham’s first solo project turned out to be influential in its own right (most famously cited by Jeff Beck as the chief catalyst for his lauded 1975 release Blow by Blow). Cobham recruited some heavyweight players for Spectrum, including guitarist Tommy Bolin, fellow Mahavishnu Orchestra alum Jan Hammer on keys, and veteran session bassist Leland Sklar. Crisp production by Ken Scott.

Choice cuts: “Quadrant 4”, “Stratus”, “To the Women in My Life”.


Twice Removed From Yesterday-Robin Trower

After a 4-year stint with Procol Harum (1967-1971), guitarist Robin Trower left so that he could fully realize the expansive soundscapes he hinted at in the ethereal “Song For a Dreamer”, which appeared on the final album he did with the band, Broken Barricades. Recruiting bassist/vocalist James DeWar and drummer Reg Isadore, he released this compelling set in 1973.

Unfairly dismissed by some as a Hendrix clone, Trower not only developed a distinctive texture and tone, but has proven himself as one of the greatest players ever (well, in my book). Granted, the album does feature Hendrix-ish riff-driven numbers, but evenly balances the mix with beautiful, transporting ballads, carried along by DeWar’s sublime, whiskey-soaked vocals. One of those albums I still listen to on a regular basis.

Choice cuts: “I Can’t Wait Much Longer”, “Daydream”, “Hannah”, “I Can’t Stand It”, “Twice Removed from Yesterday”.

Bonus Tracks!


Here are 10 more gems from 1973 worth a spin:

3+3-The Isley Brothers

Abandoned Luncheonette-Hall & Oates

Band on the Run-Paul McCartney & Wings

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road-Elton John

Houses of the Holy-Led Zeppelin

Lark’s Tongue in Aspic-King Crimson

Mott-Mott the Hoople

Raw Power-The Stooges

Selling England by the Pound-Genesis

Witness-Spooky Tooth

Remember-it’s only rock ‘n’ roll. Now get on your bad motor scooter and RIDE!

Roots, Rock, Ridicule: The Mojo Manifesto (***)

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on March 4, 2023)


How do I describe Mojo Nixon to the uninitiated? Psychobilly anarchist? Novelty act? Social satirist? Performance artist? Brain-damaged? Smarter than he looks? The correct answer is “all of the above.” “Mojo Nixon” is also, of course, a stage persona; an alter ego created by Neill Kirby McMillan Jr., as we learn in Matt Eskey’s The Mojo Manifesto: The Life and Times of Mojo Nixon (available on digital platforms March 17th). My gateway to Nixon’s oeuvre was via “The Dr. Demento Show”, a weekly syndicated program we aired at the radio station I was working at back in the 1980s. The song was called “Elvis is Everywhere.”

Elvis is everywhere, man!
He’s in everything.
He’s in everybody…
Elvis is in your jeans.
He’s in your cheeseburgers
Elvis is in Nutty Buddies!
Elvis is in your mom!

It wasn’t so much the hilariously absurd stream-of-consciousness lyrics, as it was the unbridled commitment to the vocal that hooked me right away. Who was this guy? Turns out I wasn’t the only person sitting up and paying attention. While Nixon and his partner-in-crime Skid Roper (aka Richard Banke) already had a modest cult following and several albums under their belts, it was the surprise popularity of that 1987 single (and its accompanying video) that brought him to the attention of MTV viewers and to the public at large.

However, his follow-up “Debbie Gibson is Pregnant with My Two-Headed Love Child” put him at odds with MTV execs, who flat-out refused to air the video without several proposed edits. In a response emblematic of his perennially tenuous relationship with the business end of the music biz, Nixon shrugged and moved on (that period was the beginning of the end for MTV as we had known and loved it anyway).

The fact that he has stuck to his guns throughout his career is what most endears him to his ardent fans. Indeed, if anything, he doubled-down on the cheeky celebrity lawsuit-baiting with tunes like “Stuffin’ Martha’s Muffin” (referencing MTV VJ Martha Quinn), “Don Henley Must Die”, “Orenthal James (Was a Mighty Bad Man”, “Bring Me the Head of David Geffen”…well, you get the idea. Eskey’s equally cheeky documentary (opening with “Chapter Five”) begins in 1990, with footage of Nixon in the studio recording Otis, his first “solo” album after parting ways with Skid Roper, then moves the timeline back from there.

McMillan recalls growing up in Danville, Virginia. His parents were progressive liberals, which likely contributed to his activism at a relatively young age (he was arrested at 14 for protesting a local leash law). Later in college, he majored in poly-sci, but found himself becoming increasingly disillusioned with the idea of punching a clock. He moved to England for a spell, vowing to find a niche in London’s burgeoning punk scene (he ended up busking in the underground in order to survive, singing rockabilly standards).

The film traces how McMillan came up with his “Mojo Nixon” alter-ego, which provided a perfect foil to embody his divergent inspirations Hunter S. Thompson, Woody Guthrie, 50s rockabilly, and The Clash. It also delves a bit into how Nixon’s political stance began to lean more toward the libertarian side:

Also on hand to commentate (contemporary and archival) are Jello Biafra, Country Dick Montana, Kinky Friedman, Winona Ryder, John Doe, and others (the epilog reveals that his former creative partner Skid Roper declined to participate in the production of the documentary; which leaves you wondering what the story is there…perhaps the venerable “creative differences”?). Not unlike Nixon himself, Eskey’s portrait may be manic at times, but it’s honest, engaging, and consistently entertaining.

Tell me why: A therapeutic mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on February 14, 2023)


In a 2016 piece about the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, I wrote:

But there is something about [Orlando] that screams “Last call for sane discourse and positive action!” on multiple fronts. This incident is akin to a perfect Hollywood pitch, writ large by fate and circumstance; incorporating nearly every sociopolitical causality that has been quantified and/or debated over by criminologists, psychologists, legal analysts, legislators, anti-gun activists, pro-gun activists, left-wingers, right-wingers, centrists, clerics, journalists and pundits in the wake of every such incident since Charles Whitman perched atop the clock tower at the University of Texas and picked off nearly 50 victims (14 dead and 32 wounded) over a 90-minute period. That incident occurred in 1966; 50 years ago this August. Not an auspicious golden anniversary for our country. 50 years of this madness. And it’s still not the appropriate time to discuss? What…too soon?

All I can say is, if this “worst mass shooting in U.S. history” (which is saying a lot) isn’t the perfect catalyst for prompting meaningful public dialogue and positive action steps once and for all regarding homophobia, Islamophobia, domestic violence, the proliferation of hate crimes, legal assault weapons, universal background checks, mental health care (did I leave anything out?), then WTF will it take?

Well, that didn’t take:

Morning dawned Tuesday on East Lansing to a rattled Michigan State University campus hours after a mass shooting left three dead and five others critically injured.

An alert was sent at 8:31 p.m. Monday, telling students to “run, hide, fight” with a report of shots fired at Berkey Hall and at the MSU Union.

Two people were killed at Berkey Hall, said university Interim Deputy Police Chief Chris Rozman. The gunman then moved to the MSU Union, where another was killed.

Students were told to shelter in place as authorities searched for the gunman. The 43-year-old suspect was Anthony McRae, Rozman said at a news conference Tuesday. McRae was found off campus early Tuesday before he could be arrested; he had died from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. […]

McRae was not affiliated with the university, and authorities didn’t know early Tuesday why he came to MSU.

“We have absolutely no idea what the motive was,” Rozman said.

“Absolutely no idea” indeed. As in, I have absolutely no idea why our legislators cannot seem to take even one tiny infinitesimal step forward on enacting sensible gun reform. Well…I have some idea:

And today, Michigan’s governor (as any decent and compassionate leader reflexively does) has donned the mantle of Consoler-in-Chief:

It appears the governor and I are of like mind:

Saddest of all, the MSU shootings occurred on the eve of a grim anniversary:

You remember Parkland, right? In my review of the 2020 documentary After Parkland, I wrote:

So where are we at today, in the two years since a gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at Stoneman Douglas High, killing 17 people and wounding 17 others in just 6 minutes? According to a 2019 AP story, a report issued in February of last year by a student journalism project “…concluded that  1,149 children and teenagers died from a shooting in the year since the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” citing that the stats cover “school shootings, domestic violence cases, drug homicides and by stray bullets”. Mind you, nearly another year has passed since that report was released. […]

The most powerful moments [in After Parkland] are in the beginning, which contains a collage of real-time cell phone audio of the Parkland incident. The chilling sounds of automatic gunfire and students screaming in pain and terror made me think of the Martin Luther King quote ” Wait has always meant Never ”. If every lawmaker was locked in chambers and forced to listen to that audio on a continuous loop until they passed sensible gun reform, perhaps they would all finally reach their breaking point.

You know what “they” say-we all have a breaking point. When it comes to this particular topic, I have to say, I think that I may have finally reached mine. I’ve written about this so many times, in the wake of so many horrible mass shootings, that I’ve lost count. I’m out of words. There are no Scrabble tiles left in the bag, and I’m stuck with a “Q” and a “Z”. Game over. Oh waiter-check, please. The end. Finis. I have no mouth, and I must scream.

Something else “they” say…music soothes the savage beast. Not that this 10-song playlist that I have assembled will necessarily assuage the grief, provide the answers that we seek, or shed any new light on the subject-but sometimes, when words fail, music speaks.

As the late great Harry Chapin tells his audience in the clip I’ve included below: “Here’s a song that I could probably talk about for two weeks. But I’m not going to burden you, and hopefully the story and the words will tell it the way it should be.” What Harry said.

“Family Snapshot” – Peter Gabriel

“Friend of Mine” – Jonathan & Stephen Cohen (Columbine survivors)

“Guns Guns Guns” – The Guess Who

“I Don’t Like Mondays” – The Boomtown Rats

“Jeremy” – Pearl Jam

“Melt the Guns” – XTC

“Psycho Killer” – The Talking Heads

“Saturday Night Special” – Lynyrd Skynyrd

“Sniper” – Harry Chapin

“Ticking” – Elton John

How quick they pass: RIP Burt Bacharach

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on February 9, 2023)


Well, here we go again:

One of the most accomplished pop music composers of the 20th century, Burt Bacharach, has died at age 94. The musical maestro behind 52 top 40 hits including “Alfie,” “Walk on By,” “Promises, Promises,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” “What the World Needs Now is Love” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?,” Bacharach had an untouchable run in the 1960s and 1970s with a wide range of pop, R&B and soul artists. According to the Associated Press, Bacharach died on Wednesday (Feb. 8) at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes.

Working with lyricist partner Hal David, Bacharach and David were dubbed the “Rodgers & Hart” of the ’60s, with a unique style featuring instantly hummable melodies and atypical arrangements that folded in everything from jazz and pop to Brazilian grooves and rock.

Many of their songs were popularized by Dionne Warwick, whose singing style inspired Bacharach to experiment with new rhythms and harmonies, composing such innovative melodies as “Anyone Who Had a Heart” and “I Say a Little Prayer.”

Bacharach’s music cut across age lines, appealing to teens as well as an older generation who could appreciate the Tin Pan Alley feel of some of David’s lyrics. His fresh style could keep the listener off­ balance but was intensely moving, defying convention with uplifting melodies that contrasted the often bittersweet lyrics.

Granted, he was 94, and enjoyed a long and productive life, but this is another one that hurts (we’ve had a string of them lately). I realize it’s generational; as I Tweeted today:

And get off my lawn. I guess I AM that f**king old, which became abundantly clear after I received a number of replies schooling me on a thing or two…prompting this apologia:


Here’s what “the kids” were referring to:

At any rate, the Bacharach/David catalog is a rich vein of pure pop for now people of any generation; which is why their songs can play any room-from cocktail lounges to mosh pits.

That said, the recording artist most synonymous with the legendary songwriting team is Dionne Warwick. Bacharach, David, and Warwick had an amazing chemistry. Here’s a clip from a 1970 episode of The Kraft Music Hall, which illustrates why Bacharach and Warwick were such a perfect match of composer/arranger and recording artist…the easygoing rapport, mutual respect, and the creative inspiration each took from the other is palpable.

Casual brilliance. Like most pop geniuses…he made it look so easy. A much harder task is picking my 10 favorite Bacharach songs, so I’ve cheated a bit and made it an even dozen.

Always Someone There to Remind Me (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) – Sandie Shaw

This was a #1 hit in the UK for Shaw back in 1964.

Baby, It’s You (Burt Bacharach, Luther Dixon, Mack David) – Smith

This early Bacharach hit had previously been covered by The Shirelles and The Beatles in the early 60s, but I’ve always loved this swampy blues version, with a seductive and soulful lead vocal by Gale McCormick. It made the U.S. top 5 in 1969.

Do You Know the Way to San Jose? (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) – Dionne Warwick

Warwick’s version is, of course, definitive.

God Give Me Strength (Burt Bacharach, Elvis Costello)  – Kristin Vigard

This version (sung by Kristin Vigard) appears in the sleeper Grace of My Heart. Allison Anders’ 1996 film features a knockout performance by Illeana Douglas. Elvis Costello recorded a version for Painted From Memory, his 1998 collaboration album with Bacharach-but curiously, Vigard’s beautiful interpretation remains unavailable in any other format.

I Say a Little Prayer (Burt Bacharach, Hal David)  – Aretha Franklin

Another definitive rendition. Three words: Queen of Soul.

The Look of Love (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) –  Dusty Springfield

Dusty Springfield’s breathy delivery and the most laid-back sax solo in the history of recorded music make this one really special. This version memorably graced two film soundtracks: Casino Royale (1967), and The Boys in the Band (1970).

Make it Easy on Yourself (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) – The Walker Brothers

Scott Walker’s mellifluous baritone makes this a winner. The 1965 single topped the UK charts at #1, and peaked at #16 on the Hot 100 Chart in the U.S.

Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head  (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) –  B.J .Thomas

Bolstered by its utilization for a memorable (if oddly incongruous) scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, this song hit #1 in the U.S. and Canada in late 1969.

This Guy’s in Love With You (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) –  Herb Alpert

Herb Alpert was never in love with his own voice, but his laid-back performance (and subtle trumpet work) struck a chord with millions of record-buyers, which handily pushed this to #1 on the Billboard charts in 1968. Bacharach arranged.

Walk on By (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) –  The Stranglers

I was torn on this one, because I love Isaac Hayes’ epic version equally (featured on his classic 1969 album Hot Buttered Soul, which I wrote about here). But I decided to go with The Stranglers, who released this fab version in 1978. Shades of the Doors’ “Light My FIre”.

What the World Needs Now (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) – Jackie DeShannon

This peaked at #7 in 1965. Covered by many artists, but DeShannon’s version rules.

The Windows of the World (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) – Dionne Warwick

Warwick has declared this haunting, moving antiwar statement to be her personal favorite from her own catalog. Unusually political for a Hal David lyric, it was released in 1967.

Bonus Track!


Bacharach Medley (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) – The Carpenters

Say what you will about the Carpenters…but their Bacharach medley was killer-bee. No Autotune here, kids…absolutely live. Harmonies pitch-perfect as the studio version, AND she’s keeping perfect time.