Saturday, August 18, 2007

Notes From Underground-Twice As Much, The Field Mice, Lou Christie, Emitt Rhodes, Brenton Wood


1. “You Should Be Ashamed”-Emitt Rhodes, Emitt Rhodes, 1970-After doing time in LA area garage pop acts the Palace Guard and the Merry-Go-Round—both of which are collected on the Nuggets box set—as a drummer, multi-instrumentalist, and lead vocalist, Rhodes eschewed the problems and drama of band mates and recorded his self-titled debut by himself, even doing all the myriad harmonies. “You Should Be Ashamed,” along with the rest of the record, owes a tremendous debt to the Beatles—his bouncing, melancholy piano and rich voice is evocative of McCartney during the rupture and his turn as a solo artist, but I think the constant linking of Rhodes to McCartney is unfair.

2. “Two Faces Have I”-Lou Christie, Two Faces Have I Single on Columbia Records, 1963-Lou Christie backed-up by the immortal Tammys shows off his startlingly high upper register as he belts out the chorus in an almost cartoon-like falsetto. Born Luigi Sacco in Moon Township outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylavania Christie promptly made the move to New York as a young man and scored a hit “The Gypsy Cried,” which he followed with "Two Faces Have I," which I think is better than much of what the Four Seasons did, if only because it doesn’t sound so hyper managed; it’s coarse the way rock and roll was intended to be.

3. “The Coldest Night of the Year”-Twice as Much (feat. Vashti Bunyan), That’s All, 1968-I came across this one on the same Immediate comp that featured the Nico song “I’m Not Sayin’.” After some minor digging—and I still may be wrong—the song billed as “Twice as Much” by Vashti Bunyan is really by another Immediate band called Twice As Much which featured a young Vashti Bunyan on vocals. This is very different from Bunyan’s stellar 1970 folk record Just Another Diamond Day, her breathy vocals are similar, but the music is breezy folk pop not sounding unlike the Walker Brothers with its washed out acoustic guitars and sleigh bells.

4. “If You Need Someone”-The Field Mice, Where’d You Learn to Kiss That Way, 1998-Twee to the max, the Field Mice were the best example of what a Sarah Records band should sound like—liltingly sensitive vocals, softly strummed guitars, and simple beats, all executed crisply and economically with a supposed guileless preciousness that often fuels the ire of their and twee's detractors. For some reason many bands like this reside across the Atlantic: The Pastels, Heavenly, and Boyracer, I think it all has something to do with Morrissey. The Field Mice had a tendency to get a little too cute with things like sequencers and drum machines to their detriment. The compilation—Where’d You Learn to Kiss That Way—is out of print and kind of pricey, but if you find it you should snap it up.

5. "The Oogum Boogum Song"-Brenton Wood, The Oogum Boogum Song Single on Double Shot Records, 1967. Mostly known as a low-rider song, like Billy Stewart's "Sitting in the Park," and Rosie & the Originals' "Angel Baby," I first heard "The Oogum Boogum Song" on Alex Chilton's most recent record Loose Shoes and Tight Pussy, censoriously renamed Set for American audiences. Wood spends the song basically describing a knockout that is for some reason wearing a trench coat: "When you wear those big earrings, long hair, and things, You got style, girl, that sure is wild, And you wear that cute trench coat, And you're standing there posing, You got soul, you got too much soul."



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