Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On Hiatus

Goodnight-Gracie is sadly on hiatus. Thanks to those of you who ever bothered to look at this. Please return, though I know not when.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Goodnight Gracie Podcast #8-Girls! Girls! Girls!

Laura Nyro-One of my favorite Girls! Girls! Girls!


Please click here for the:
  • Girls! Girls! Girls! Podcast

  • 1. Brand New Life-The Young Marble Giants
    2. G.F.S.-Slant 6
    3. (You Tell Me?) From the tour split with Rocket Ship-Henry's Dress
    4. My One and Only Jimmy Boy-The Girlfriends
    5. Opportunity-The Jewels
    6. Do I Love You-The Ronettes
    7. Qui Peut Dire-Francoise Hardy
    8. Wedding Bell Blues-Laura Nyro
    9. Diamond Day-Vashti Bunyan
    10. For All This-Holly Golightly
    11. Afterhours-Moe Tucker (The Velvet Underground)


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    The Modern Lovers-The Modern Lovers, 1976

    The Modern Lovers
    The Modern Lovers

    Recently I went with my girlfriend and her parents to the Castro Theater for a screening of Victor Sjostrom’s 1921 surrealist film The Phantom Carriage; called Körkarlen in the original Swedish. The real reason we went was because Jonathan Richman was providing the score and I had never seen him in the flesh—unless you count the time I saw him dawdling in the bowels of the Civic Center BART station near the escalator. When Mr. Richman and his merry band of musicians took to the stage, a feminine voice came screaming down from the balcony: “We love you Jonathan!” Even though deep down inside I agreed with the sentiment I felt a bit embarrassed. Mr. Richman though, took it in a kind of stride that showed he was used to such adulation—he stood up, turned toward the crowd and elegantly bowed. And to that I could not help but think, “we do love you Jonathan.”

    Like any young record collector or underground music acolyte, I sought out the Modern Lovers’ 1976 debut that almost every pundit promised to be a bridge between the Velvets and late Seventies punk. As proof, almost all of them wrote, and still sometimes do, about how the Sex Pistols covered “Roadrunner,” as if that should be a source of pride to the Modern Lovers. I don’t know, I have had this record for ten years and it seems light years from the black-leather, skin-popping cool posturing of the Velvets, and the glue-sniffing bluster and Cro-Magnon lightning of the Ramones. To me there was no real synthesis to speak of.

    Jonathan Richman is famously from Massachusetts—a fact that he clamored on about incessantly on his early records. After finishing school, young Jonathan, a serious Velvets devotee, went to New York and crashed on Steve Sesnick’s—the Velvet Underground manager that John Cale called “a snake”—couch. After some time Richman, perhaps another casualty of the Big City meat-grinder moved back to Boston and formed the Modern Lovers along with future Real Kid John Felice and future Cars drummer David Robinson.

    Felice, a rather endearing songwriter himself who was not nearly quite as precious, perhaps felt squeezed by Richman’s tight control and departed. Bassist Ernie Brooks and organ player—future Talking Head—Jerry Harrison joined with Richman and Robinson to form the classic Modern Lovers line up that was recorded in the early seventies by John Cale among others.

    The Modern Lovers debut LP first appeared in 1976, but was recorded years before, by many hands in many places, and cobbled together later. “Roadrunner,” “Astral Plane,” “Old World,” “Pablo Picasso,” “She Cracked,” and “Someone I Care About” were all recorded by John Cale for Warner Brothers when he worked as a staff producer. “Dignified and Old,” “Girl Friend,” and “Modern World” were recorded as demos for A&M; “Hospital” seemed to be recorded by the group at Intermedia Studios in Boston, MA, and Kim Fowley, wanting a piece of Jonathan’s action recorded “I’m Straight,” and “Government Center” back in California. I can’t think of more essential music produced in such a slapdash and mediocre manner, aside from perhaps the work of early blues and folk masters who were recorded with a lonesome microphone in the middle of a bleak and dusty field.

    “Roadrunner” opens the first Modern Lovers album with a kind of boisterous and aggressive hustle that pitched its tent not far from the Velvets’ camp, but lyrically—maybe more to the point—vocally, it was in a different universe altogether. Anyone who has heard Jonathan Richman can instantly identify his thick nasal whine, which makes him sound as if he has some hideous and perpetual cold. Lou Reed for his part had a voice that sounded quite nasally, but the kind that existed in deference to Dylan; Richman’s on the other hand sounds as if he ripped it from some thick-throated child.

    Essentially there are two aspects of the Modern Lovers debut album that make it a kind of classic—Jerry Harrison’s blunt and minimal organ work, which seemed to prefigure the Krautrock revolution in American and British rock music, and Jonathan Richman’s elegantly detailed and highly esoteric lyrical sensibility that to this day has been unequaled. The rest is merely boilerplate.

    On his first record, Richman had yet to develop his latter day child-like lyrical persona that marked most of his career after shaking free from the original Modern Lovers, but even so he showed flashes of his future coy infantilism streaked with a deep understanding of human interaction. For some reason though, it would be the last time that he would truly plumb the depths of darker and less innocent emotions.

    When I was younger—and perhaps that is a key—“Hospital” and “I’m Straight” were my favorites. Since then I have graduated to Richman’s less troubling, more trifling tales, but those two songs reveal an intelligent and profoundly candid peek into the life of a lonely mind as it engages with a deeply insular world. “Hospital” opens with a simple farfisa figure and the stark words “When you get out, of the hospital, let me back into your life, I can’t stand what you do, I’m in love with your eyes.” It is a watershed lyric, a brilliant sentence that reveals a truth about human failure on two levels. It is about the compulsive love for someone who is compulsively not in love with you. Cynics unfortunatley call this type of love "unrequited."

    On his debut, Richman created a creed that abhorred drugs, drink, and cheap meaningless sex, but somehow made way for an asshole artist like Pablo Picasso. It was a tour-de-force of individualism that no one at the time was willing to follow, but now stands as a monument to secular clean living. It’s theme song is “I’m Straight,” a brilliant conversational portrait of a villain called “hippie Johnny,” someone who is “always stoned…never straight,” and Richman wants to “take his place.” But of course, like in most of his songs, Jonathan comes off like a stalker who cannot really convince one of his many loves that he is worthy of their affection; and for this, we do love Jonathan, or at least follow his every move.


    Sunday, September 02, 2007

    Goodnight Gracie Podcast #7-Before There Was Beatles

    My Hero-
    The flawed but brilliant Chuck Berry


    What I tried to do was pick all songs from before 1963, the year the Beatles released their first record Please Please Me. Of course they were around before 1963, but they did not make their godzilla-like mark until then. Until next week. Please click here for the:
  • Before There Was Beatles Podcast

  • 1. Back in the USA-Chuck Berry
    2. Matchbox-Carl Perkins
    3. Certainly All-Guitar Slim
    4. Slow Down-Larry Williams
    5. Don't You Just Know It-Huey "Piano" Smith & The Clowns
    6. Lipstick On Your Collar-Connie Francis
    7. Teenage Love-Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers
    8. Pledging My Love-Johnny Ace
    9. I Love You So-The Chantells
    10. Two Faces Have I-Lou Christie
    11. Let's Dace-Chris Montez
    12. Cathy's Clown-The Everly Brothers

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