Happy 50th birthday, GILG!

Image used solely to illustrate subject for the purposes of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

Released January 1969 (sorry, was unable to find the exact date), The Four Seasons’ Genuine Imitation Life Gazette is one of those albums which originally bombed but is now regarded as an absolute masterpiece.

Critics really liked it, but it only sold about 150,000 copies, and the singles did extremely poorly. Four Seasons’ fans were confused, shocked, and angry, since GILG was such a radical departure from their familiar sound.

This was also a time when a great many musical acts who’d been very popular for a long time began falling off the charts. Public tastes were radically changing, and bands like The Four Seasons, The Beach Boys, Herman’s Hermits, and The Dave Clark Five were suddenly considered uncool and irrelevant, even when they tried to evolve with the changing musical landscape.

The psychedelic pop sound, and pop in general, was also on its way out, being replaced by the heavier sounds of bands like Cream, Vanilla Fudge, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Iron Butterfly, and Steppenwolf. Add that to how The Four Seasons weren’t exactly in their early twenties.

GILG just came out at the worst time possible for commercial success. Even if The Four Seasons had looked towards copying the abovementioned bands instead of psychedelic pop, most deejays wouldn’t have played it anyway.

It’s comparable to one of the real reasons many popular silent actors lost popularity in the early sound era. Almost all of them survived the transition just fine, but after the dust began settling, the public came to regard them as embarrassing relics of a bygone age best forgotten.

After this bomb, the band retreated back into a more familiar sound for two last minor hits in 1969, but it was too late. The musical landscape was far too different, their second classic lineup broke up, and their hardcore fans had already moved on. Had GILG done well, The Four Seasons’ Seventies sound might have been so much different.

They had an amazing comeback in 1975, thanks to successfully copying popular sounds at the right time, but their incredible 1978 follow-up unfortunately didn’t do very well, and their 1985 and 1992 albums didn’t chart at all.

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

“American Crucifixion Resurrection”
“Mrs. Stately’s Garden”
“Look Up Look Over”
“Something’s on Her Mind” (#98 in the U.S.)
“Wall Street Village Day”
“Saturday’s Father” (#103 in the U.S.)
“Genuine Imitation Life”
“Idaho” (#95 in the U.S.)
“Wonder What You’ll Be”
“Soul of a Woman” (one of their most moving songs, celebrating a woman’s entire life from birth till death)
“Watch the Flowers Grow”* (#30 in the U.S.)
“Raven”*
“Will You Love Me Tomorrow”* (#24 in the U.S.)
“Electric Stories”* (#61 in the U.S.)

I obviously highly recommend this album. If you only associate The Four Seasons with songs like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “Let’s Hang On!,” I encourage you to give this album a listen and see the kind of depth and maturity they were capable of, both musically and lyrically.

Happy 50th birthday, Instant Replay!

Image used solely to illustrate the subject for purposes of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

Released 15 February 1969, Instant Replay was The Monkees’ first post-Peter album, and came six months after their show was cancelled. Though there was plenty of new material to mine from, some of the songs came from sessions up to two and a half years earlier. Their new music coordinator and former road manager Brendan Cahill thought releasing these songs from the vault would be a surefire way to regain popularity.

It didn’t exactly pay off, though the album was far from a critical bomb. It was #32 in the U.S., #26 in Japan, and #45 in Canada. The two singles fared slightly less well. “Tear Drop City” was #56 in the U.S., #34 in Australia, and #47 in the U.K., while future bonus track “Someday Man” was #81 in the U.S. and #44 in the U.K.

Peter, who’d left the band on 20 December 1968 after buying out the last four years of his contract at $150,000 each ($1,020,000 today), has a token appearance on “I Won’t Be the Same Without Her.” He played guitar.

“You and I” features Neil Young as a guest guitarist.

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

“Through the Looking Glass” (Micky) (written by Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, and Red Baldwin)
“Don’t Listen to Linda” (Davy) (written by Boyce and Hart)
“I Won’t Be the Same Without Her” (Nez) (written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King)
“Just a Game” (written and sung by Micky)
“Me Without You” (Davy) (written by Boyce and Hart)
“Don’t Wait for Me” (written and sung by Nez)
“You and I” (Davy) (written by Bill Chadwick and Davy)
“While I Cry” (written and sung by Nez)
“Tear Drop City” (Micky) (written by Boyce and Hart)
“The Girl I Left Behind Me” (Davy) (written by Carole Bayer Sager and Neil Sedaka)
“A Man Without a Dream” (Davy) (written by Goffin and King)
“Shorty Blackwell” (written and sung by Micky, with the distinction of being The Monkees’ longest song)
“Someday Man” (Davy) (written by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams)*
“Carlisle Wheeling” (written and sung by Nez)*
“Rosemarie” (written and sung by Micky)*
“Smile” (written and sung by Davy)*
“St. Matthew” (written and sung by Nez)*
“Me Without You” (alternate mix)*
“Through the Looking Glass” (early mix)*

In 2011, Rhino issued a 3-disc deluxe edition with 89 tracks, with stereo and mono versions, remixes, alternate takes, backing tracks, and unreleased goodies. The vinyl version features two additional discs, containing one song each.

My favourite tracks are “Through the Looking Glass,” “I Won’t Be the Same Without Her,” “You and I,” “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” “Shorty Blackwell,” and “Someday Man.” While I personally prefer The Monkees Present of their 1969 albums, Instant Replay is also very high-quality, and shows they were so much more than teenypop.

Carlos on the Witness Stand

There are still quite a lot of posts that need moved out of my drafts folder already. This was originally scheduled for 31 March 2012, intended for the long-discontinued Sweet Saturday Samples bloghop, and set aside indefinitely. It differs slightly from the published version.

***

This week, I’m featuring an excerpt from Chapter 36 of Adicia’s story, “Carlos Goes to Prison.” Carlos, Adicia’s oldest brother and the next-oldest Troy sibling, was paralyzed in an accident at work in early July of 1962, and while he was in the hospital, a number of charges were brought against him for his drug-related activities, stealing at work, and (accidentally) starting the fire that destroyed the Troys’ original tenement. Five years later, he’s finally mentally and physically fit enough to stand trial. Now he gets a chance to take the stand, and unwittingly incriminates himself for basically everything. The rating is PG-13.

***

“Will you raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

“Yup,” Carlos says.

It is the second week in September, and the prosecution has decided to put Carlos on the stand.  The defense declined to use him as a witness, citing his alleged diminished mental capacity and the fact that he’s already been through enough trauma, but the prosecution lawyer thinks he’s either crazy like a fox or so genuinely stupid he’ll be putty in their hands.

“Will you please state your name?”

“Carlos Ghislain Troy.”

“Now, Mr. Troy, at the time of your accident, July 3, 1962, Wednesday, you were working at Mighty Mike’s Mechanics on the Lower East Side, correct?”

“It was the second job I had in my life,” he says proudly. “I was a car repairman and mechanic.”

“And what did this job entail?”

“I fixed people’s cars and performed basic maintenance services.”

“Did you ever take anything out of the cars you were entrusted with?”

“All the time.  That’s onea the reasons I wanted the job after I was fired from my first job.  I knew some rich folks would be taking their cars in, and I’d help myself to their belongings.  They either wouldn’t miss ‘em or would just buy new stuff.  Hell, my own mother right there told me she hoped I’d be stealing from the cars the same way I useta help myself to cereal when I worked in a cereal factory.”

Mrs. Troy hangs her head in her hands.

“So you are basically admitting to stealing from your customers and pleading guilty to the thirty counts of petty theft you are facing?”

“All poor folks steal.  We deserve nice stuff, and rich folks deserve to be put in their place.  Besides, I was told they found mosta the stuff in my work locker.  That problem is solved and the charges should be waived.”

“That’s not up to you, Mr. Troy.  That’s up to the judge and jury.  Now here’s another question for you.  Can you remember when you started using or selling drugs?”

“I was fourteen, maybe?” he guesses. “I think I waited till I started high school to start joining my parents in the wonderful world of drugs.  We useta have a whole drug lab in our old tenement, before it was destroyed by fire.”

Now Mr. Troy hangs his head in his hands.

“Did you start selling them at the same time you began using them?”

“I want to say yes.  I sold and used all kinds of drugs you can imagine, though my favorite to use was meth.  Speaking of, I’m dying for some meth right now.  Can anyone oblige me?”

Mrs. Troy wishes she could run out of the courtroom right about now.

“Mr. Troy, are you aware you are incriminating yourself by your testimony?  You do have Fifth Amendment rights to refuse to answer any of these questions.”

“You asked if I’d tell the whole truth, and I agreed.  I ain’t got nothing to hide.  I’m proud of my roots and what I’ve done.”

“Fine.  Now that we’ve quickly established you did steal from your customers at the car shop and that you’re a drug user and pusher, let’s move onto the most serious charges you’re facing.  Do you remember what you were doing on the late afternoon of June 27, 1962, Wednesday?”

“Using meth, probably.  Is that supposed to be the day our old tenement burned down?”

“Yes it is.  Does that jog your memory now that you know what exactly I’m asking about?”

“That was the day I got my job at Mighty Mike’s Mechanics.  On my way home, I siphoned off some gas from a fancy car for my buddy Nick and his wife Louise, onea the few families I knew with their own automobile.  Nick and his wife lived on the fourth floor of our old tenement.  Nick told me their electricity had gotten shut off ‘cause they hadn’t paid their utility bill, and asked if I’d please go into the basement to try to fix it by fiddling with the fuse box.  I gladly obliged.  I saw the cheapskate landlord had taken out the penny I’d put into the socket last time I’d been working with the fuse, so I stuck another one in.  It was really dark down there, so I lit a match to see.  After I was done fiddling with the fuse, I threw the match on the ground.  It musta come in contact with somea the gasoline I’d accidentally spilled when I was setting the gasoline canister down on the ground.  So as you can see, this fire was a total accident.  I did not maliciously set a fire or intend to kill nobody.”

“Sir, are you aware of what putting a penny into a socket or fuse breaker can do?”

“I guess it could cause a fire hazard, but that ain’t no reason to never do it.  Tons of people get in cars every day, and they ain’t avoiding ‘em for fear of dying in accidents.”

“And are you aware of how flammable gasoline is, and even more so when it comes into direct contact with a flame such as a match?”

Carlos waves his hand dismissively. “Those were complete accidents.  It was actually pretty funny when we looked out our door and saw a fire at the bottom of the steps.  It was onea them ‘Did little old me do that?’ moments.”

“You find it funny that you caused a massive gasoline and electrical fire that completely consumed a ten-floor tenement building where roughly two hundred people lived, claimed twenty lives, and left everyone homeless?”

“Of course that part wasn’t funny!  It’s like how you laugh when someone falls on a banana peel.  You know it ain’t funny for him, but it’s funny to watch since it ain’t you, and ‘cause people getting hurt are funny.”

Mr. and Mrs. Troy’s mouths are hanging open in shock by now.  They’ll have no reputation left if any of their friends, family, or neighbors read about this in the papers or hear about it through the grapevine.

“Sir, are you aware of how quickly a gasoline fire spreads, and that when combined with a concurrent electrical fire, the end results will be disastrous?”

“You act like I did this on purpose!  I hated losing everything I owned and being made homeless, though at least we was able to move right into my older sister and her ex-husband’s apartment in Two Bridges, since she’d just divorced him and he’d moved back in with his parents.”

“Did you make any efforts to report this to the police, or let the firemen know how it had started?”

“Now why in the hell would I incriminate myself like that?  Accidents happen.  That don’t mean all harmless accidents need to be treated like criminal matters.”

“Now I’m going to read you a list of names, and you can tell me if you recognize any of them or know how these names relate to one another.  Angela Barbieri, Maria Delmonico, Edward Gallagher, Hannah Gallagher, Stanley Houlihan, Jane Johnson, Lisa Jones, Nathan Jones, Timothy Jones, Adela Levine, Charles Levine, Peter MacIntosh, Georgia McIntyre, Philip McNulty, Alexander Nankin, Vera O’Loughlin, Richard Rogers, Randolph Spirnak, Jerry Teitelbaum, and Sharon Zoltanovsky.”

“My mother was friends with a Mrs. Nankin on onea the lower floors, but I don’t remember if I personally knew that family. The only name on that list that rings a bell is Spirnak, who moved in across the hall from us that May. He had a daughter Julie who’d just turned eight. Spirnak sold drugs as his full-time job. My parents and I became somea his best clients. There was no Mrs. Spirnak, since they’d divorced a couple of years prior. That bitch tried to tell the cops and lawyers he was doing degenerate things to their daughter, but we all know how girls and women make stuff up when they’re desperate for attention or trying to get people to take their side. The girl, Julie, disappeared not that long after they moved in, and I have no idea where she went to. Why, are these people the ones who are charging me for accidentally burning down the building?”

“No, they can’t do anything now, because they are all dead.  Most of them were found dead when the firemen arrived too late to save the building or anyone inside, and Mrs. O’Loughlin, Mr. MacIntosh, and Miss Lisa Jones, who was only nine years old, died shortly thereafter in the hospital of their injuries.  Do you feel any remorse, now that you’ve learnt the names attached to the people who died in the fire you started?”

“Why should I feel bad for something that I didn’t do on purpose?  I ain’t some pansy like my brother Allen, who was pathetic enough to quit all drugs, alcohol, and even cigarettes, and who don’t mind being surrounded by more girls than guys.”

The prosecuting attorney smirks and turns to the defense. “Mr. Hoffman, would you like to cross-examine this hapless witness?”

Carlos’s lawyer feels like throwing his hands up. “No, that’s fine.  I don’t think my client will be able to get out of the hole he’s just dug for himself no matter what I ask him.”

Mrs. Troy looks like she wants to murder Carlos as he wheels himself off of the witness stand.  Mr. Troy has to suppress the urge to reach out and smack his firstborn son upside the head.  Just about the only thing a poor family can claim to be proud of is its name, and now they probably don’t even have any name left after Carlos has cavalierly admitted in court to using and selling drugs, stealing at work, and starting a fire.

Happy 50th birthday to The White Album!

The Beatles released their one and only double album on 22 November 1968. Though it’s eponymous, just about everyone has always called it The White Album, due to its plain white cover. Its working title, A Doll’s House, had to be changed when prog-rock band Family released Music in a Doll’s House in July.

This album is known for its solo showcase of each Beatle. Many of the songs weren’t recorded with all four in the studio at the same time, and the distinctive voice and style of each bandmember emerges loud and clear on his respective songs.

Many people know a lot of the songs were written and/or inspired by The Beatles’ sojourn in India. None were released as singles.

The album was recorded from 30 May–14 October 1968, and the sessions were fraught with acrimony. Ringo briefly quit the band in August, feeling like he no longer belonged; producer George Martin took an unexpected leave of absence; engineer Geoff Emerick quit; and John’s new love Yoko famously moved her bed into the studio.

Album one:

“Back in the USSR” (Paul)
“Dear Prudence” (John)
“Glass Onion” (John)
“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” (Paul) (an immediate skip button, and a song the other three Beatles HATED)
“Wild Honey Pie” (Paul)
“The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” (John)
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (George)
“Happiness Is a Warm Gun” (John)
“Martha My Dear” (Paul) (written about his Old English Sheepdog)
“I’m So Tired” (John)
“Blackbird” (Paul)
“Piggies” (George)
“Rocky Raccoon” (Paul)
“Don’t Pass Me By” (Ringo)
“Why Don’t We Do It on the Road?” (Paul)
“I Will” (Paul)
“Julia” (John)

Album two:

“Birthday” (Paul and John)
“Yer Blues” (John)
“Mother Nature’s Son” (Paul)
“Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” (John)
“Sexy Sadie” (John)
“Helter Skelter” (Paul) (an obvious outlier he likes to point to as “proof” he was really the hip, hard-edge, avant-garde Beatle)
“Long, Long, Long” (George)
“Revolution No. 1” (John) (never liked the slow tempo)
“Honey Pie” (Paul)
“Savoy Truffle” (George)
“Cry Baby Cry” (John)
“Revolution No. 9” (John) (a sound collage which is famously among fans’ most-hated songs, but which I’ve always adored and often listened to on repeat)
“Good Night” (Ringo) (almost the last song I heard in this lifetime)

There’s also an unlisted song snippet between “Cry Baby Cry” and “Revolution No. 9,” “Can You Take Me Back,” by Paul.

The majority of critics loved it, though a few were less than enthusiastic. It débuted at #1 in the U.K., and spent a total of eight weeks there (seven consecutively). In the U.S., it débuted at #11, shot to #2 the next week, and climbed to #1 in the third week, where it stayed for nine weeks.

The album was also #1 in Australia, Canada, France, Norway, Sweden, Spain, and West Germany.

I’ve always adored this album. My favourite tracks include “Revolution No. 9,” “Glass Onion,” “Dear Prudence,” “Julia,” “Long, Long, Long,” “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey,” and “Savoy Truffle.”

Celebrating The Ox on his 16th Jahrzeit

This year, in honor of the 16th Jahrzeit (death anniversary) of The Who’s bassist, John Alec Entwistle, I’m featuring my favorite songs he sang lead on. He was such a dear, special treasure, and often underappreciated. My estrogen Who lists were very active in the early Aughts, and it was rather uncommon for us to get a John girl. Most of us held one of the other three as our fave raves.

My all-time favorite John song! The lyrics are particularly poignant after his premature passing. Yet again, he proved how very deep still waters run.

This is John’s solo lead vocal on Who Are You, though he wrote three of its songs. It’s quite unusual how Roger sings two John songs. Like “When I Was a Boy,” “905” too has extra poignancy since his untimely passing. I also see parallels with Brave New World and We.

One of John’s two songs from A Quick One. It’s so cute how he sings his Rs as Ls and Ws (noticeable in the words “friend” and “drink”) in the hopes that they’ll run together and come out properly. He had a hard time singing his Rs at this early stage.

One of John’s songs from The Who Sell Out. Like so many of his other songs, it’s so full of his trademark dark, quirky, deadpan humor. His sense of humor is one of my favorite things about him.

John’s song on The Who by Numbers (which I’ll be writing a proper review of soon). It’s also full of his trademark quirky, dark humor, and fits so well with the overall mood of the album. While it’s not as dark and depressing as the rest of the songs except the insipid “Squeeze Box,” it still has that same sort of edge and mood. It also brings some levity to the mix, in its own quirky way. I also love the deep Boris voice he uses on the “fairy manager” line.

Originally the lead-off track on Odds and Sods, but moved closer to the end on the CD remastering. The songs (original tracks as well as bonus songs) are arranged in chronological order on the reissue. Yet again, it’s bursting with his trademark style of humor.

Doesn’t everyone love this song? It’s one of John’s classic Who songs, and the reason I named my stuffed spider keychain Boris. The name is truly pronounced Bah-REECE, not BOR-iss, but I can’t help but use the Anglo pronunciation for my spider when that’s the one used in his namesake song.

I’ve got the VHS of their incredible 1970 Isle of Wight show, and watched it so many times in my early twenties. Sadly, I haven’t been able to play it in years, due to not having a VCR at the moment. The Who often opened with “Heaven and Hell.” The lyrics have extra poignancy since John’s passing. The studio version on the remastered Odds and Sods majorly pales in comparison to the live classic. The Who were known as a live band, not a studio one. Even their greatest studio songs gained an extra level of fire onstage.

John’s song on Who’s Next. It’s one of his most belovèd and quintessential, and of course full of his trademark style of humor. So many of his songs are bursting with it.

John’s solo lead vocal on the rather unfairly denigrated Face Dances, though he also wrote “You.” This is one of his signature songs, and perfectly sums up so much about who he was. There are so many parallels between him and George Harrison, starting with the obvious fact that each was labeled The Quiet One of his respective band. Speaking from personal experience, once you’ve been saddled with that label, it’s damn-near impossible to throw it off, and people often don’t take you seriously. We have to prove how very deep still waters can run.

May your beautiful light shine forever, dear sweet Junnykins. The world is a better place because you were in it for 57 years. It was an honor to share Planet Earth with you for 22 and a half of those years.