“I wish I could stop, and start it again”

In loving memory of John Alec Entwistle, 9 October 1944–27 June 2002

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

In honor of John Entwistle’s upcoming 15th Jahrzeit (death anniversary), I decided to review his awesome solo album Too Late the Hero. Some of the material is edited from my old Angelfire posts. Though I own several of his albums on vinyl, this is the only one I’ve gotten around to listening to so far.

TLTH was recorded from 1979–May 1981, and released 23 November 1981. This was his only solo album of the Eighties, though he tried to release The Rock in 1986. Instead, The Rock released in 1996.

TLTH went to #71 on the U.S. Billboard 200, his highest-charting position since his 1971 solo début Smash Your Head Against the Wall. This was also his last album to chart before his untimely death.

The single “Talk Dirty” went to #41 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock chart, with the B-side of “Try Me.” (I’m sure many of my younger readers don’t even know what a B-side is!) The other single, title track “Too Late the Hero,” charted at #76 on the U.K. NME (New Musical Express) chart, and #101 on the U.S. Billboard chart. “Fallen Angel,” while not a single, also received much radio play on album-oriented rock stations.

TLTH was John’s first solo album in six years, since 1975’s Mad Dog. He felt he’d been going in the wrong direction musically, and wanted to get away from that old-style rock and roll with its “shoo-bop, shoo-bop” stuff. With this album, John returned to his previous style of songwriting. (Read more in a 1981 Rolling Stone interview.)

Critical reception over the years, both then and now, has typically been rather underwhelming or negative. A rare positive review came from venerable music critic Chris Welch of Melody Maker.

I’ve always absolutely adored this album. It’s pulsing with so much musical energy, and as a proud Eighties kid, I can’t resist that trademark Eighties production style!

It’s been said that John’s voice was never this top-notch again after this period.

Track listing, with stars by the CD reissue bonus tracks:

“Try Me”
“Talk Dirty”
“Lovebird” (so lovely and poignant, with John’s voice sounding particularly pretty)
“Sleeping Man”
“I’m Coming Back” (catchy and upbeat, though veers a bit dangerously close to filler)
“Dancing Master” (claims to not be a disco song, but so obviously is, even if it’s more of a spoof!)
“Fallen Angel” (has some very insightful lyrics about how cynical and fickle people can be towards those who are no longer on top)
“Love Is a Heart Attack” (an eerily prophetic song he played at all his solo shows)
“Too Late the Hero” (so beautiful, epic, and haunting, with John’s voice sounding not only very pretty, but delicate)
“Sleeping Man” (demo)*
“Dancing Master” (demo)*
“I’m Coming Back” (demo)*
“Love Is a Heart Attack” (demo)*
“Overture” (unreleased outtake)*

I’m sorry I waited to long to get this album. There was a $3 or $2 copy at Mystery Train Records in Amherst for quite some time, along with Smash Your Head Against the Wall, but I always hesitated, since I wasn’t enough of an established, longtime, serious Who freak to be ready for solo work. But when I found it for $1 at the (now out of business) Saratoga branch of Last Vestige Records, I hesitated no more.

In spite of the many lacklustre reviews, I’d strongly recommend this album to someone interested in John’s unique solo work. Though he only had eight solo albums, it’s quality that matters, not quantity. Ideally, one should also be well-versed in a solo artist’s band of origin before branching out into solo work.

All these years later, I’d still rate it a 4.5.

Happy 50th birthday, Headquarters!

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

Released 22 May 1967, Headquarters was The Monkees’ third studio album, and their first with almost complete creative control. The few outside musicians were properly credited, as were the professional songwriters.

Though The Monkees began life as a TV show band, assembled from four guys chosen via auditions, they rebelled against their handlers and became a real band. It was also beshert, destiny, that those four guys were chosen out of everyone who auditioned, and that they meshed together so well.

HQ immediately reached #1, but was dethroned by the most overrated album of all time a mere week later. It stayed at #2 for the next 11 weeks. HQ also reached #1 in Canada and the U.K. In Norway and Finland, it charted at #2.

Track listing, with stars by the 2007 bonus tracks:

“You Told Me” (Nez)
“I’ll Spend My Life with You” (Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart)
“Forget That Girl” (Douglas Farthing Hatlelid)
“Band 6” (mostly instrumental)
“You Just May Be the One” (Nez, with a chorus line some people have famously misheard as “Oh, Nimbus” instead of “All men must”)
“Shades of Gray” (Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil)
“I Can’t Get Her Off My Mind” (Boyce and Hart)
“For Pete’s Sake” (Peter and Joey Richards; used as the closing theme for the second season of the TV show)
“Mr. Webster” (Boyce and Hart; reminds me very much of “Richard Cory” on Sounds of Silence)
“Sunny Girlfriend” (Nez)
“Zilch” (a fun nonsense number that’s a group effort)
“No Time” (Hank Cicalo)
“Early Morning Blues and Greens” (Diane Hildebrand and Jack Keller)
“Randy Scouse Git” (Famously written by Micky about his wild, exciting experience in London and meeting his first wife. The title translates as “Horny Liverpudlian Jerk,” and was hence retitled “Alternate Title” in the U.K.)
“All of Your Toys” (Bill Martin)*
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (Nez)*
“A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” (Neil Diamond)*
“She Hangs Out” (Jeff Barry)*
“Love to Love” (Neil Diamond)*
“You Can’t Tie a Mustang Down” (Jeff Barry)*
“If I Learned to Play the Violin” (Joey Levine and Artie Resnick)*
“99 Pounds” (Jeff Barry)*
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (single version)*
“Randy Scouse Git” (alternate version)*
“Tema Dei Monkees” (Boyce and Hart)*
“All of Your Toys” (early mono mix)*
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (second version)*
“A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” (mono single remix)*
“She Hangs Out” (mono single mix)*
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (mono single mix)*
“Nine Times Blue” (Nez; demo version)*
“She’ll Be There” (Sharon Sheeley; acoustic duet)*
“Midnight Train” (Micky; demo version)*
“Peter Gunn’s Gun” (Henry Mancini; jam session)*
“Jericho” (studio dialogue, arranged by Peter)*
“Pillow Time” (Janelle Scott and Matt Willis; demo version)*

I absolutely adore this album, and easily give it 5 stars. The bonus tracks on the most updated reissue are also awesome, though I personally feel like they go on too long and start detracting from the listening experience. The last few bonus tracks are kind of like the endless jam sessions on the third LP of ATMP, where I’d constantly wonder, “Isn’t this over yet?” It would feel less bloated with less bonus tracks, and the rest saved for a boxed set or disc of rarities or outtakes.

HQ is definitely one of the key albums to get acquainted with if you’re just getting into The Monkees!

Zionism and “Zog Nit Keyn Mol”

My WeWriWa post is here.

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Theodor (né Tivadar) Herzl (2 May 1860–3 July 1904), Father of Zionism

Contrary to what you might’ve heard about Zionism from the modern-day extreme Left, it’s simply a movement for Jewish sovereignty in our own nation. It never outlived its usefulness, and there’s absolutely nothing racist about it. Certain individuals don’t speak to the movement as a whole.

There are many streams—Religious, Socialist, Practical, Political, Labour, Synthetic, Revisionist, Revolutionary, Cultural, Neo, et al. It’s a total lie that you have to be super-religious and/or super-conservative politically to be a Zionist. Many of the early Zionists were committed Socialists.

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Though many countries emancipated their Jewish communities between 1791–1923, it was still very difficult to live as a religious minority. Just because the law says one thing doesn’t mean all of society will change long-established attitudes overnight.

There also wasn’t any emancipation in places like the Russian Empire, and while the Jewish communities in the Islamic world were almost equal legally, they had dhimmi status. Dhimmitude entailed certain restrictions, and the payment of special taxes.

While I still feel it held people back to exclusively speak Yiddish and make no attempt to become a real part of their respective host cultures, I now understand why so many resisted. What incentive did they have to, e.g., adopt real Russian names, speak Polish, dress in modern clothes, or apply to secular schools when they were so hated and held back from so many opportunities?

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Moving to Israel, then called Palestine, was freedom. Even North America, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand didn’t afford the opportunity to be surrounded by one’s own people, instinctively understood, part of the majority. The Romans renamed Israel Palestina as a humiliation, a punishment, using the name of the enemy Philistines. Arabs in Israel didn’t begin calling themselves Palestinians till 1967!

These early pioneers took desert wastelands and turned them into oases, dug ditches, planted crops and fruit trees, established modern towns and cities, brought this largely abandoned land into the modern era. This is how Tel-Aviv looked in 1909, when the first settlers (drawn by lot) arrived:

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People needed a safe refuge from pogroms, institutionalised discrimination, numerus clausus quotas for schools, anti-Semitism, denied opportunities. Had there been a self-governing State of Israel, free of British rule, so many people would’ve been saved from the Shoah. Thanks to the horrific White Paper, countless people were denied immigration visas when there was still a window of opportunity to flee.

Most of my Hungarian-born characters were deeply involved in the Socialist–Zionist youth group Hashomer Hatzair, which convinced them their place is in Israel. After the war, all the survivors do indeed go to Israel, either on legal visas after the British are gone, or through relatives already in Israel sending papers for them.

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Partisans’ Memorial in Givatayim, Israel, Copyright Avi1111 (Dr. Avishai Teicher)

“Zog Nit Keyn Mol” (“Never Say”) was written by Yiddish poet and partisan Hirsh Glik in 1943. Born in Vilna (then part of Poland) in 1922, he began writing poetry in his teens and co-founded Yungvald (Young Forest), a group of young Jewish poets. Following the German invasion of the Baltic states in 1941, he was sent to the camp Weiße Wache, and later transferred to the Vilna Ghetto.

Many ghettoes tried to keep up a semblance of normalcy with a strong cultural life, and Vilna was possibly the greatest of all cultural centres. Hirsh was a big part of the artistic community, and simultaneously served in the underground. On 21 January 1942, the Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye (United Partisan Organisation) was founded, with the motto “We will not go like sheep to the slaughter.”

Paul Robeson, one of my heroes, singing a shortened version in the USSR in 1949

In 1943, Hirsh wrote “Zog Nit Keyn Mol” to the music of Russian composer Dmitriy Yakovlevich Pokrass. Though he managed to flee during the ghetto’s liquidation in October 1943, he was recaptured and deported to a camp in Estonia. He continued writing poetry and songs in captivity, and escaped in July 1944 as the Red Army neared. Hirsh was never heard from again.

The song made the rounds among other partisans, and today, it’s commonly sung at Shoah memorial services all over the world. Though my characters aren’t from a Yiddish-speaking area, they nevertheless express sentiments from the song a few times, “Never say this is our final road when the hour we longed for is so near.”

Full version

Déjà Vu Blogfest—Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day! (My fandom story)

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DL Hammons is once again holding his annual Déjà Vu blogfest, wherein participants revisit a post from the past year which didn’t get the audience one expected, or that one wishes to run again. I chose a post I originally published on 10 August 2016, “Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day! (My fandom story).”

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Since taking this photo several years ago, I’ve added the lovely, underrated Big Thing (1988) and the spin-off The Power Station (1985) to my vinyl collection, but I didn’t feel like reshooting this picture!

To mark Duran Duran Appreciation Day (a fan-initiated holiday falling on the anniversary of Simon’s near-drowning experience in 1985), I decided to finally share my story of how I became a fan. It’s hard to believe this year makes it five years since I’ve been a Duranie. My path to fandom wasn’t the typical one, since it happened so many years after their greatest wave of popularity, I wasn’t some screaming teenybopper, and I’ve always most gravitated towards classic rock and pop.

To quote the lesser-known song “Beautiful Colours,” “Life isn’t standard-issue, it’s customised.” Not everyone has the same reasons for joining and staying in a fandom. I also like to discover bands, books, films, actors, writers, etc., long after the heyday has passed. I’m getting into them for my own reasons, not because of massive hype.

I’d actually bought Rio in July 2007, after finding it in the $2 stacks at a Northampton record store which has since gone out of business. At the time, I justified it to myself as indulging my Eighties nostalgia, a guilty pleasure I only had to part with $2 for. I listened to the album a few times, but it didn’t do much for me. It wasn’t the right time for me to become a fan.

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I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this now, but for a long time, I dismissed the band because I thought they were just a bunch of prettyboys who were only around in the Eighties, just some talentless boygroup for mindless teenyboppers. It took awhile for me to realise they’re a real band, and just happened to be heavily marketed to teenyboppers the way my belovèd Monkees were a generation earlier. Real fans stuck around after their heyday, while the fairweather fans moved on to the next big thing pimped by the media.

As some readers might remember, in November 2010, I finally went back to my long-hiatused book Little Ragdoll from scratch and memory. Around this time, I seriously started using YouTube, and began making playlists to listen to while writing. One of those was my Hollies’ playlist, which was my majority soundtrack for writing the book. I also made soundtracks for The Four Seasons, The Monkees, several other bands and artists, and the Eighties.

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 Of course, I searched out several Duran Duran songs for the lattermost playlist, and ended up clicking on a lot of their other recommended videos. As 2010 turned into 2011, I found myself liking and listening to them more and more. I’d “liked” the band’s official Facebook page by early February 2011, since I remember there was a post celebrating the 30th anniversary of “Planet Earth” shortly after I joined.

Then on Valentine’s Day, the page asked about fans’ choices for most romantic songs. A number of people named “Come Undone” as super-romantic and babymaking music, and I looked up the video on YouTube. I ended up watching and listening to it over and over again, hooked. That’s the song that really threw the switch and made me realise I was a real, active fan, not just disinterestedly indulging Eighties nostalgia. I consider Valentine’s Day my anniversary of becoming a Duranie.

During this early period, while watching their videos and listening to their songs, I found myself thinking, “Wow, the blonde dude [Simon] is really handsome!” This was pretty noteworthy for me because I’m almost never physically attracted to blondes. I’ve always been all about the dark hair and eyes, and consider blonde hair and blue eyes a rather boring, cliché look. A guy with those features has to be really, really special for me to pay attention to him.

On 23 March 2011, the band did a YouTube-broadcast concert for American Express, with truly bizarre video work by David Lynch. I was getting more and more into them, and starting to feel really self-conscious about it. That summer, I began writing the first draft of The Twelfth Time, and often listened to them as my writing soundtrack. All the while, I felt weird when I caught myself listening to them too much. I didn’t want to admit to myself I’d become a real fan and fallen in love with them so deeply, since I was afraid of being made fun of.

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Then I remembered, I’ve always cared less when people trash my belovèd Monkees and accuse them of being only for shallow, brainless teenyboppers with poor taste in music. I know the real story behind their origins and evolution, and love their music no matter what. Sometimes good bands get famous really quickly, and are heavily marketed to teenyboppers. As a result, they develop a stigma it can take decades to shake, and many people don’t take them seriously as real bands. Why was I being such a hypocrite about loving a band with a similar story?

I finally admitted to my head what my heart already knew, and no longer felt ashamed or self-conscious about how much of their music I was watching and listening to. Five years later, I’m not embarrassed to admit I sleep under a vintage framed poster of the band or to go out with a vintage button on one of my purse straps. My fave rave is Roger, though my giant stuffed frog is named Simon because I already named my stuffed tiger after my first Roger, the handsome Roger Harry Daltrey.

I’ve used lines from some of their lyrics as inspiration for chapter and part titles in my books, and narrative lines in general. Favourite songs include “The Seventh Stranger,” “Secret Oktober,” “Out of My Mind,” “Lonely in Your Nightmare,” and “To the Shore.” My favourite music video is the long version of “Wild Boys” (so deliciously macabre!)

And, of course, “Come Undone,” the song that made me come undone.

Happy 50th birthday to A Quick One!

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

Released 9 December 1966, A Quick One was The Who’s sophomore album. From my experience in the fan community, this seems to be one of those things which is largely judged differently along sex-based lines. A lot of guys tend to hate it or think it’s junky bubblegum, while female fans are more forgiving and are even known to like it more than a little.

This isn’t one of the greatest albums of all time, but it’s not the worst either. It’s a typical 1966 album, in that there are a few hits and radio favorites padded out with a bunch of filler. For the most part, I find the filler fun and cute. One guy on the old album reviews section of thewho.net claimed he wanted to throw up every time he played it. As I said in my own review, why would someone play any album he hates so much it makes him want to throw up?

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

 “Run Run Run” (written by Pete)
“Boris the Spider” (written by John)
“I Need You” (credited to Keith but probably 90% written by John)
“Whiskey Man” (written by John)
“Heat Wave” (cover of the Holland-Dozier-Holland song)
“Cobwebs and Strange” (instrumental) (credited to Keith but probably 90% written by John)
“Don’t Look Away” (written by Pete)
“See My Way” (written by Roger)
“So Sad About Us” (written by Pete)
“A Quick One, While He’s Away” (written by Pete)
“Batman”*
“Bucket T”*
“Barbara Ann”*
“Disguises”* (written by Pete)
“Doctor, Doctor”* (written by John)
“I’ve Been Away”* (written by John)
“In the City”* (written by John and Keith)
“Happy Jack”* (written by Pete)
“Man with the Money”* (cover of an Everly Brothers’ song)
“My Generation/Land of Hope and Glory”* (first part written by Pete; second by Edward Elgar)

As per the custom of the era, the album was repackaged for the American market, and retitled Happy Jack. The U.S. version removed “Heat Wave,” and added “Happy Jack” between “Cobwebs and Strange” and “Don’t Look Away.”

The album failed to chart in the U.S., though it reached #4 in the U.K. The only successful single was “Happy Jack,” which charted at #3 in the U.K. and #24 in the U.S. “Boris the Spider” became one of John’s most popular songs, one of the songs most associated with him. “So Sad About Us” also became very popular, as well as the original closing track.

By 1966 standards, “A Quick One, While He’s Away” is a complete anomaly, particularly on an album full of songs ranging from 1:53 to 3:04. It clocks in at 9:10, and, true to what Pete admits is his own pretentious nature, it was billed as a mini-opera. The subject matter is also pretty risqué for 1966, since it’s clearly about an affair and cuckoldry. It consists of six parts:

“Her Man’s Been Gone”
“Crying Town”
“We Have a Remedy”
“Ivor the Engine Driver”
“Soon Be Home”
“You Are Forgiven”

Pete wanted cellos in the concluding section, but since The Who didn’t exactly have the type of budget as The Beatles did, they had to sing “Cello cello cello cello cello cello cello” several times.

The band were under a contractual requirement to write at least two songs each, though Roger only wrote one. Pete was always their predominant songwriter, though John showed a real talent for songwriting already at this early point. I love the dark, twisted humor in his songs. Roger did go on to write some pretty nice songs, but I think we’re all glad he chose to stick primarily to singing.

It’s fun, cute bubblegum pop, not the hard rock The Who became known for, but that just makes it different, not wretched and inferior. Too many so-called fans seem to think they had to sound a certain way for their entire career, instead of God forbid trying out different musical styles and evolving over time. It’s fine to have a personal preference, but not to bash them for failing to measure up to that preference every single time.