Every day is a good day for some Aretha. She’s a healer and who doesn’t need at least 3 minutes of healing a day? She’s always got you covered whether you want to dance or roll up in a ball and cry with the lights out. With that in mind, if you are looking to read something nerdy and ridiculously idiosyncratic regarding how a besotted fan ( uh, that’d be me) listens to her, then I invite you to head over to Medium to check out this weird thing I wrote. It’s called “Aretha’s Greatest Bits” and is basically a descent into the sublime weeds of a few vocal performances of hers. You know how you have favorite lines in movies ? Well it’s kind of like that except Aretha herself is the movie. Check it out here !
And oh yeah, it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the absolute finest new tracks we’ve heard over recent days. It’s not a big list this week but it is, as they say, perfectly formed. Lush and dirty, sweet and sad, it’s just a concise, focused 7-pack of love. You can listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify.
I’ve written about Paul McCartney about 10 billion times at this point & I’m sorry but I have to do it one more time. Right so, there is a new 6 part series on Hulu called “McCartney 3,2,1”.In it Rick Rubin & Paul rumble through the Beatles & solo Macca catalogue analyzing isolated parts & reminiscing while air-drumming/bass-ing. Through it all Paul seems as mystified by the brilliance of what he’s created as the rest of us. Okay, they spend too much time talking about freakin’ “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”& Paul repeats some truly well-worn anecdotes but it’s engaging, intimate & genuinely moving ( yes, I did tear up a few times). You should definitely watch it ❤️
I actually met Paul once back in 2007 when I was working at Virgin Megastore in NYC. When we were introduced he took both my hands & smiled. It is at this disturbingly early point of our story that I officially lost my shit. I did not let go & “dragged” him forward into my own office to show him the picture I had on my wall of he & his beloved Linda. Me : “Paul, I have to show you something”. I then pointed to the photo. Why I felt the need to do this I still don’t know. Paul: “That’s my baby and me” I then babbled for several minutes telling him how much I loved his band & that I was psyched that he was including “Too Many People” in his live shows again. This is the solo track where he famously attacks John in one of the verses. He said “Oh you like that one do you ? “. He then hailed his photographer over to take a photo of us, his idea (holy jeezus) & so I got to hold onto him again. And then he was gone, downstairs to sign autographs for the fans. To review : I mentioned his late wife AND the song with the famously mean line about his deceased musical soulmate John Lennon in the space of a few minutes & may have set a new land speed record for complete inappropriateness when talking to a Beatle. Also once he left the office I had an attack of what I can only describe as “jelly legs” & almost fell down. And then when I got home I cried. Yes, I gave a truly full circle performance on this special day.
Basically IT WAS THE GREATEST THING EVER. And so yes, you should definitely check out the Hulu show okay ?
And now please join me for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path this week. They are all fabulous & beautiful & # 1 in this heart here ( and hopefully will be in yours too).
I wouldn’t normally do this but today is my Mom’s 81st birthday and I just want to pay tribute to her this week ! That’s a pic of her in our kitchen in the’80s with our diva hound dog Daisy (RIP girl) and her ever present (back in the day) Salem cigarette. Just want to send big blessings to this Brooklyn born hippie girl who throughout the ’70s drove a white Chevy Nova with a huge yellow sunflower🌻 painted on the side proudly through our conservative town, who worshipped Janis Joplin, referred to Bob Dylan as “Bobby”, Jim Croce as “Jimmy” and LL Cool J as “JJ Cool” (which even though it was a mistake I still find to be awesome). She’s the coolest and I hope I can grow up to be like her someday. She once told me the happiest day of her life was the day she stopped caring what people thought of her and yeah, here’s to that 😉 Anyway, Happy 18th Birthday Mom (not 81 as you reminded me), you rule forever ❤️ !
Thanks for indulging me. Now it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path over recent days. It’s a small one, easily digestible, sweet and lustrous and every track is currently occupying the #1spot in our heart.
That is a pic of Sinead O’ Connor when she was a teenager (love those gloves). Just wanted to recommend her new memoir “Rememberings” which is equal parts intense, indulgent, fascinating and weird-funny. In it you will find spirituality, shagging and yes nerds yes, an album by album breakdown (!). I’m old so I’ve seen Sinead play dozens of times over the years and she has never been less than staggeringly wonderful every single time. At festivals, in theaters, in tiny clubs. No matter what she sang. Originals. Traditional folk ballads. Obscure reggae covers. She’s just one of those artists where it doesn’t matter what songs she sings, she just has that ability to keep you in rapt attention and utterly awe-struck at the power of her voice for an entire show. It’s kind of amazing. When you see Sinead you aren’t obsessing over the setlist or waiting for just that one song, it’s always big picture powerful, cathartic and beautiful. And so yes check out the book in whatever format you can. I have to say the audiobook where Sinead herself reads and chuckles aloud while reeling off certain anecdotes is especially great.
And now for music! Welcome to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest songs that have surfaced over recent days. Not sure if anyone has noticed but I haven’t posted a playlist for a couple of weeks which means this one is a little bit bigger than usual. I’ll be back to the normal routine this coming week. That said, there are some outrageously wonderful songs within this mega-list and I think you should listen to all of them. Do it in intervals, take breaks, listen to some today and some tomorrow but check them all out, they are all melodic, fantastic, sad and jubilant and surely taking turns occupying the #1 spot over on Earth 2 as we speak.
No matter who we are in this absurd, brief, and messy life we can all lay claim to a peak, a shining moment where we were the best we could be, where all the stars aligned and we freakin’ delivered the goods.
Welcome to “That’s Their Pet Sounds”, our semi-regular feature where we endeavor to spotlight and celebrate a heretofore maybe uncool, often unjustifiably underrated, sometimes polarizing, not as acclaimed as they should be, or “what the hell?” artist’s grandest artistic achievement i.e. their greatest album.
*”That’s Their Pet Sounds” is named after the Beach Boys landmark 1966 LP which is universally regarded as one of the greatest albums ever made but yeah, you probably knew that.
Let’s get high…
David Lasley’s Best Album: Missin’ Twenty Grand (1982)
Background: If you have listened to the radio or been exposed to pop music at any point over the past 50 years there’s a good chance you’ve heard David Lasley’s voice. But unless you are a hardcore James Taylor fan, for whom he served as backup singer for decades or a loyal devotee of the West Coast sound, his name might not be familiar to you.
David Lasley has a ridiculous voice, a strikingly soulful, scenery chewing falsetto that is part ’60s girl group, part Motown diva Mary Wells, with a smidge of Smokey Robinson thrown in for good measure. It’s one of those “who/what the hell is that” kind of voices. But honestly, even those esteemed descriptors don’t quite nail its otherworldly essence. And so when I innocently caught wind of him one Sunday morning during good old Casey Kasem’s weekly Top 40 show back in April of 1982, I was a little teenage confused about exactly who a voice like that could be attached to.
The David Lasley song Kasem played, at #36 with a bullet, was a lustrous West Coast ballad called “If I Had My Wish Tonight”. As its sentiments were desperate, unrequited and supremely passive-aggressive it landed with perfect precision in my emotional teenage wheelhouse. Which meant I just had to have it. The universe somehow heard and arranged for my wish for “Wish” to be manifested with surprising speed and weirdness. Exactly one week later I found the actual album the song appeared on in a thrift shop. A freakin thrift shop. No, seriously. What a promo of a just released pop album was doing in a small dusty knick knack and moth haven in my Long Island hometown I will never know. At the end of the day I have to put it down to that great and mysterious pop music guardian angel-tooth fairy-benevolent spirit that drops and delivers songs into our lives when it thinks we’re ready or maybe need them the most. For whatever blessed reason, the spirit wanted me to meet this David Lasley guy. The album was called Missin’ Twenty Grandaka MTG and it only cost me a $1 or so ( I still have it, that’s it up top, complete with big promo hole in the corner).
My first listen of MTGwas (quietly) revelatory. Not because the style of music itself was unfamiliar or particularly adventurous but because I’d never heard such overtly queer sentiments on a mainstream adult pop album before. There was talk about “lovers” and men being “fine”. There was a song with euphemistic title of “Roommate”. It was weird to me, I mean it was a soft rockrecord. I was a naive suburban teenage girl who up until then had gotten all her edge and exposure to “otherness” via the rock gods. Bowie’s taunts and Freddie Mercury’s winks (sidenote: not counting my fantasizing that Olivia Newton-John was singing about a girl in her 1977 hit Sam because that was just between me and her). Anyway that was the sum total of my exposure to musical queerness. On MTG , David Lasley’s songs were nothing like the garish, glittery anthems of the aforementioned legends, they were grown up, civilized, AM radio ready soft rock songs. I was not a worldly kid in 1982 and this kind of blew my mind. It seemed downright subversive to me. “Wow”, I remember thinking, “this is so cool”…yes, that was as deep as the processing and emotional absorption went. Cool.
David (in blue) & Arnold McCuller backing up James Taylor in 1977
By the time of MTG‘s release David was already a very well-established, in demand session singer and songwriter (check out his immense list of credits here)…but “back-up singer” is hardly representative of what he was actually doing on the ton of recordings he was a part of. Try this fun experiment after you read this essay;
Basically, once you are familiar with his voice and go to listen to almost any of the myriad of songs he’s sung back-up on, he’s all you are going to hear (my personal favorite moments are his high decibel “heaveeen’s” and “ecstasyyy’s” in “Take Me Home”). And oh yeah, he’s also written some pretty famous songs including this diamond below from an album that sold 8 million copies…
He also co-wrote this and this, yup. Gorgeous, supreme and evergreen.
From 1976-77 Lasley was part of a pop soul trio called Rosie who released a couple of albums on RCA but failed to hit the charts and subsequently broke up. Following that he embarked on a solo career, releasing a total of 7 solo albums, with his trilogy of ’80s releases, MTG, Raindance (1984) and Soldiers On The Moon(1989)serving as the artistic pinnacle. And I should point out that 1982’s MTG, was technically Lasley’s second album as the previous year had seen the release of a collection of demos entitled, yes, Demos. But as Demoswas not so much a lean, mean radio friendly machine as it was a curio/showcase to attract potential collaborators, MTG has long been regarded as David’s official debut album. And so the handful of glowing and esteemed reviews it garnered rightfully refer to it as just that. Speaking of which…
This glowing NY Times review had a painfully accurate title…
Not everyone expresses love and/or approval in the same way…and with that I welcome you to the wonderful world of actual MTG reviews from 1982. On the one hand you had outright effusive stuff like Don Shewey’s piece for the Boston Phoenix where he declared “If I Had My Wish Tonight” to be “a mini-masterpiece”.
Then there was venerable Village Voice critic Robert Christgau’s begrudging word salad of a blurb which starts off semi-ominous but then turns the table with a twist ending:
Great falsettos like Smokey Robinson and Clyde McPhatter flow uphill, while lesser ones like Maurice Gibb and Russell Thompkins settle for the formal panache and expressive limitation of acknowledged artifice. Lasley certainly doesn’t flow, but he doesn’t settle either–his struggle toward full emotional range sounds forced at first, but then willed, which is different. Playing head voice for homosexual angst rather than love-man tenderness or androgynous affect, he sets his colloquial confessions to pristine studio soul backup completely appropriate in a concept album about a white guy in love with black music. B+
Didn’t see that B+ coming right ? But the coolest and most glowing commendation by far came courtesy of Stephen Holden in his NYT review (depicted above). Check out this little nugget:
The wide-open emotionality of Mr. Lasley’s singing, combined with his confessional lyrics and the way his tunes blend the style of Motown with more sophisticated Broadway and Hollywood influences, recalls the pop soul style of Laura Nyro’s classic late-60’s albums.”Missin’ Twenty Grand,” one feels, ultimately belongs in the same very exclusive league.
Yeah, you read that right. Holden is suggesting that MTG should be held in the same regard as the legendary Laura Nyro’s finest work specifically her Eli and the Thirteenth Confession and New York Tendaberry albums. Two genuine, dyed in the wool, desert island worthy classics. That is some serious freakin’ praise to be showering on a debut album.
Not that any of the accolades and attention from high places ended up mattering. In terms of generating interest and igniting sales, none of the critical acclaim ended up meaning a damn thing. The initial success of “If I Had My Wish Tonight” aside, MTG didn’t even manage to scrape into the Billboard Top 200 album chart.
Meet #36 in Billboard pop Top 40 in April of 1982…
Why It’s His Pet Sounds: Now as it happens Lasley loved both of those aforementioned Nyro albums that MTG got compared to in the NYT. In fact, during a 1985 interview with The Advocate he mentioned that back in the day, he’d listened to them “obsessively”. The simplest way to characterize MTG is as a slick early ’80s LA take on Laura’s ’60s broadway boho style. It’s the confessional, lushly melodic, soulfully cinematic sound of the city served up by someone who is as infatuated with soul songs about infatuation as Laura was. It’s the best lovelorn coming of age musical about a white gay kid with an otherworldly voice growing up in Detroit in tumultuous ’60s you’re ever gonna hear.
But while MTG is overtly, adoringly Nyro-esque, it also possesses a tinge of that contemporary early ’80s flavor, striking some of the same sonic chords as Rickie Lee Jones. Meaning you are not only surrounded by sweet hooks and heart on the sleeve heartbreak but by a bunch of idiosyncratic characters out on the street, acting out the action. Just as Rickie introduced us to her Chuck E, Eddie and Louie, David brings along his Charlie, Mrs.Brown and Willie ( If you don’t want him, he’ll “have him, he Will-eeee”). And so MTG is essentially a love letter, to Laura, to soul music and to the Detroit he grew up in, perfumed with a sweet ‘n’ sleek early ’80s sheen.
As mentioned earlier the 3 albums he released in the ’80s remain the high point/gold standard of his solo work. While the two that followed MTG, Raindance ( produced by Don Was) and Soldiers On The Moon are home to some gorgeous things, neither are as consistently good as the debut. In other words, they’ve got some filler. You could create a classic album by combining the best parts of both (can we talk about this and this, because good lord)…but as great as that might be, and it would, the cherry-picked melange still wouldn’t hold a candle to MTG as a whole.
I’d hoped that there would be a video of David tearing it up live on one of the tracks from MTG that I could insert here but there aren’t any on YouTube. While this sucks it also gives me an excuse to share this staggeringly wonderful video of Chaka Khan performing “Roll Me Through The Rushes” which David co-wrote with Lana Marrano, his former bandmate in Rosie and features on their first album (hear it here). Enjoy.
Her name is Chaka and she is here to slay you …
The Songs: By the way the album’s title is a reference to the fabled Twenty Grand nightclub in Detroit (1958-1976) where multitudes of legendary R & B acts performed and David and his sister often sang at as a teens. In an interview with James Taylor Online, he described the album as “kind of the story of us growing up and listening to R&B records and singing in black nightclubs”.
Despite the scenery chewing enormity of David Lasley’s voice, MTG does not come booming out of the gate. In fact the first track is maybe the most subtle and polite thing on the whole album. “Got To Find Love” has a yacht rock/West Coast style groove, James Taylor on backing vocals and, okay, some sexy sax™. It’s slick and smooth and honestly its main purpose is to ease us gently into the forthcoming vocal rollercoaster ride which begins with that desperate doll of a single “If I Had My Wish Tonight”. This lament of lopsided love is actually a cover of a track written by Dave Loggins (Kenny’s actual second cousin) and Randy Goodrum that appeared on the former’s 1979 self-titled album. With its light-hearted piano flourishes and ostentatious, yup, sax, the original version has a distinctly TV theme song-ish vibe (hear it here). As such it positively withers when stood next to the glamorous desperation and desire of Lasley version. Speaking of which, you know who arranged the strings on the MTG version, the ones that pull the song to the sky? Freakin’ legend Arif Mardin. And that’s Bonnie Raitt helping out on the backing vocals. Add in the soaring Lasley vocal and yeah, it’s not exactly what you’d call a fair fight ( sorry original). While I wouldn’t go so far as to call “If I Had My Wish Tonight” a masterpiece, like the review referenced earlier did, it is an undeniably gorgeous slice of early ’80s soft rock that still sounds exquisite 40 years later.
With its soulful, sweltering Laura Nyro summer in the city vibe,“On Third Street” offers an assortment of vivid vignettes from Lasley’s teenage years when he was performing around Detroit with his sister. The song struts and swings with genuine joyfulness whilst poking fun at his own youthful innocence and naivety. Dealers, drag queens, unscrupulous lowbrow music biz sharks ( that’d be “Mrs. Brown”) are all alive in and on Third Street. The vocal line he serves up to describe getting treats at the “the english muffin factory” is criminally sweet, with its “Hot BREAD in the hot SUMMER, it was BETTER without BUTTER“. The words he chooses to stress within the lyrics bring to mind that little party trick Aretha Franklin used to employ to transcendent effect on her more upbeat songs. If you want to hear it in action, just check out her 1969 version of Glen Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind” right here. Listen to the words she chooses to accentuate. “Ink stains”. “Clinging”. “Binds”. “Cursing”. It is so perfect and clever and the kind of thing only the most instinctive and preternaturally gifted singers can do.The whole performance is just endlessly, utterly crazy genius….and David does this same thing all through “On Third Street”. He grooves and struts and shreiks, boldfacing words in the way only the best know how to do (“whole fuckin’ thing is insane!”).
Here’s that piece of hot bread we were just talkin’ about..
“Treat Willie Good” possesses a similarly Nyro-esque flavor but, added bonus, it also sounds like some lost and fabulous answer song to The Marvelettes eternally slinky Motown classic “Don’t Mess With Bill” (hear here). In the previously mentioned 1985 interview with The Advocate, David said that “Treat Willie Good” wasn’t necessarily what it seemed on the surface; “Everyone took it as such a gay song and I didn’t set out deliberately to write it that way ‘I’ll have him I will-ee, I’ll be his friend until he comes back to you’. I didn’t mean have him sexually, I really didn’t. It just sang so well”. Of course that’s exactly what it sounds like and part of what makes it such a beguiling thing. The whole Lasley vocal toolbox is on display here, cooing coyly one minute, getting all rapturous and loud the next then closing things out with some perfectly syncopated ad-libbing.
There are a couple of slow burning cover ballads to temper MTG’s pop-ified confections.There’s a torchy version of James Taylor’s “Looking For Love On Broadway” a deep cut from his multi-platinum 1977 album JT. And okay, soft rock hot takecoming, Lasley’s take is better than JT’s, doing away with the aw-shucks shuffle of the originalversion and replacing it with a far more languorous and soulful arrangement. He takes a similar sonic approach on Clyde Otis’s prescient and powerful, “Take A Look”. Its instrumentation is more than suitable for last call and the vocal is crazy, resembling both a Miles Davis’s horn solo and a Prince style plea for love. The song was originally recorded and crushed/owned/blessed by, yup, Aretha Franklin in 1964. And while the eminently wonderful Wilson Pickett and Natalie Cole both recorded fine covers, Lasley’s version is the only one that even gets close to that Lady Soul stratosphere.
The euphemistic “Roommate” percolates with genuine bitterness (as inspired by the titular character’s supremely selfish ways) and features a neat cameo from Pete Townshend (!) who serves up some uncharacteristically subtle background riff-age. Despite its swoon-some recurring bridge,“Roommate” is MTG’s most pissed off track. Countering that and representing the teary side of the story is “Never Say”, a wistful, handsome West Coast slow groove, stacked with prayers, clever lyrical turns and read between the lines nudges like this:
Two boys walk along and I think they look like brothers, my friend turns to me and says I wonder if they’re lovers, one’s a little older and he looks a lot like me, I wonder why it takes so long for everyone to see…
As someone who actually noticed these kind of things, I can confirm that back in ’80-81-82, roughly 99% of the male artists occupying that same soft rock-West Coast-Adult Contemporary sound space that Lasley was, were singing about one particular thing. Yes, you guessed it, high school girls. It mostly involved reminiscing about their interactions with them when they themselves, middle aged guys were high school boys, emphasis on the mostly. I’m telling you, this was an actual thing (if this confuses you, I wrote a bit about the phenomenon as it relates to the genre here). I am bringing this up only to drive home how disarming it was at the time to hear David Lasley romping in those same musical environs and singing aboutmen, boyfriends and hot boys.
By the way, in addition to “If I Had My Wish Tonight”, both “Got To Find Love” and “Treat Willie Good” were released as singles. Forgive these wrinkled, questionably carpeted photos below, they were the only visual evidence I could find that this actually happened. Neither track charted.
Welcome to lazy record label art direction 101…
While MTG’s penultimate track “Where Is Charlie And Joanne” has an exceptionally breezy melody and is swathed in a plush, pillowy production, it is also unerringly sad. Friends leaving and splitting up, emotional inertia, loads of wistful longing and regret, it’s all in there. In other words, it feels miserable but it sounds gorgeous, Lasley’s vocal in particular which comes across more like a slow, distant (heartbroken) siren than a tearful human person.
With its bouncing, effervescent Rickie Lee Jones flavored pop stylings “Take The Money And Run” might seem like an odd pick for the esteemed role of “the closer”. Written by late songwriter Don Paul Yowell, it’s not an adventurous, experimental all-consumingly epic summarizing all that’s come before. No, it’s a light, bright ‘n’ tuneful piece of candy with an ever so faint hint of ’60s girl group and/or Motown in its bones. It’s home to a pretty bewitching melodic twist preceding the chorus and Lasley serves up a pretty fabulous vocal, running like the wind one minute then even faster the next. But despite its breeziness, there is something about it that suggests the shop shutters being pulled down and Lasley bidding an affectionate goodbye as he drives off into the sunset. And so yeah, it really is the perfect song to wrap up the Missin’ Twenty Grandexperience.
In Conclusion: There are a few specific ways you could characterize David Lasley’s career. He was one of James Taylor’s most beloved backing vocalists. He was an in demand session singer who performed on a ton of evergreen hits. He was a gifted songwriter who composed some genuinely superfine megahits. And, okay, he was a one hit wonder. All of that stuff is true…but know what else? He made a grown up, non-rock, openly queer pop album suitable for AM radio at a time when that just wasn’t done, when the common practice was for gay artists to maintain the illusion of heterosexuality if they were purveying that more adult brand of pop or soul. From Luther Vandross, whom was a close friend and colleague of Lasley’s to Mom’s choice, Barry Manilow, no one dared to step over the line. Hook-filled and infectious, soulful and emotional, Missin’ Twenty Grand had that universality that all the best pop albums did but was not remotely coy or secretive about its sexuality.
David Lasley’s voice is an outrageous, head-shakingly amazing instrument. When he sings ‘And be thankful to the lord up above, he SENT you Willie’s love to love‘ in “Treat Willie Good”, well, that is one utterly ravishing crazy good slab of singing. And Missin’ TwentyGrand is full of moments like that one. It’s just a fab old record full of soulful sweetness. It’s David Lasley’s finest recorded hour, it’s his Pet Sounds.
Hear it here! : Missin’ Twenty Grand is not offered on any of the official streaming services as of this writing but I’ve cobbled together a way for you to listen to the whole album. You will find eight of the album’s ten songs within the YouTube playlist below. That is followed by a Soundcloud playlist featuring the two songs not currently on YouTube. I know it’s a pain but this way you can hear the entire thing if you want to or haven’t yet! You can also buy the cd over at Discogs, there are plenty to be had (and you should have it)!
Postscript: David has experienced some significant health challenges over recent years (info here) and so just want to close this out by wishing him all the light and love in the world 🌼
Gonna keep it brief today because I’m working on some lengthy, rambling essay things for this place that’ll be coming your way this very week (uh oh). And so with no further ado, I present to you the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path over recent days. I need to warn you, it’s kind of big. It was just one of those weeks where we were gifted with a whole lotta good ones. And so think of it as a melodic journey. A blessedly wordless podcast. An opportunity to meditate on some gorgeous pop music. Just something to get invested in and hell, you might find your next favorite song or band amongst ’em. You can listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify!
Hey, I want to recommend a book ! “You’re History:The Twelve Strangest Women In Music” by Lesley Chow is not so much actual ‘history’ as it is a celebration and appreciation of sounds. Literally. It’s about songs and artists infiltrating our hearts not via literal, linear lyrics but rather through idiosyncratic improvs, ad-libbing, glitches and off the charts weirdness. Here is her description of the book’s inspiration in the intro:
“What lifts a song into greatness may be the singer’s impulse to lengthen, slur or skip over a note, or an incorrect turn of phrase that nonetheless becomes iconic”.
It’s about how Chaka Khan’s glorious “oohs” on “Ain’t Nobody” and Rihanna’s emphasis on the “ella” in “Umbrella” embody life itself. How lyrics that say “nothing” can be everything. The book features chapters on several of my personal and forever Queens ( Sade, Kate Bush, TLC, Chaka), breaks down the endless wonder of Janet Jackson’s lustful, obsessive “If”, offers the absolute best take on Tom Tom Club I’ve ever read in my whole nerdy life and closes things out with her own list of “The Greatest Oohs in Modern Music”. I was endlessly nodding as I read it, all the while marking pages with freakin’ post-its so I could re-read them and nod again later.
Look, it’s cool to read a music book and get some validation once in a while, to discover that someone else is experiencing songs like you. And it’s rare to hear someone taking the angle Chow does in “You’re History”. Never mind that I am always down for deep analysis regarding TLC. It’s inexpensive, paperback and is only 162 passionate pages long so it’s easy in every respect. If you are the kind of person who actually enjoys my meandering blog, then I think you might like it 🙂 Okay, onward !
And now please join me for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the best new songs that’ve crossed our path over recent days. All are lush, tuneful, anthemic and beautiful. You can listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify.
Back in the ’80s, the Museum Of Modern Art curated a show of what they felt were the most innovative and exciting music videos available up to that point. It was called “Music Video: The Industry and Its Fringes”, a title which while it did not scream FUN, intrigued me. I was a young, obsessed MTV watcher at the time which meant I just had to see it. I went in knowing that they probably wouldn’t be featuring my beloved Duran Duran or Culture Club, this was an art museum after all, but hoped there would be a song or a someone I’d never seen that I could potentially fall in love with ( hopefully British with a big, fat synthesizer and frosted tips). That didn’t happen. I was instead confronted with this disturbing, well, something. Amongst the slate of videos was one for a song called “Frankie Teardrop” by the NYC duo Suicide ( neither of which I’d heard of at the time). I found both the song and video supremely unsettling.
“Frankie Teardrop” was not a pop song. It was a sinister, repetitive electronic drone with a creepily fey vocal about a guy who’d finally reached his breaking point and committed an unspeakable act. It was 10 minutes of blood curdling screams and menace and a very long way from my favored musical candies like Men At Work and Madonna. The video, which you can check out above, with its blurry images of child mannequins, James Dean, crabs, rats, desolate streets and anonymous faces went a long way to maximizing the terror of the song.
It rattled me. It gave me the chills and blotted out all of the videos that came before or after it. No new pop babes for me. All I could think about after watching the 30+ clips on offer was “Frankie Teardrop”. It lingered and haunted. Frankie, Frankie, Frankie.
Something about “Frankie Teardrop” turned my head around. Even though I wasn’t sure I’d ever want to play it, I bought the Suicide album it came from. For some reason I had to have it. And a week later I decided I had to see the video again and so returned to MOMA for that sole reason.
The world’s most popular Suicide fan boy, Bruce Springsteen, once said about “Frankie”; “Oh, my God! That’s one of the most amazing records I think I ever heard. I love that record”. Bruce loves Frankie.
Anyway, I was talking about “Frankie” to a friend last night and the weird sensation of revering a song, being fascinated by its every molecule but not really wanting to hear it (or see it) often, if at all. All these years later I still vividly recall the shock and surprise of it, how it shook my pop music perceptions around, discovering that a song could actually scare you, make you feel so weird. It was unnerving…and totally amazing.
Right, enough stream of consciousness craziness 😉 I now invite you to check out the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the best new songs we’ve heard over the recent cold and rainy days. It was a very POP week, full of hooks and swoon-worthy sugary tunes. All great and all surely occupying the #1 spot on the chart over on earth 2. You can listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify. We’re all Frankies.
I don’t have any weird anecdotes to offer today, just gonna offer you the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the best new songs that have crossed our path over the past week. It is big and it is especially, gloriously melodic. You can listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify !
For anyone interested, there’s a bunch of stuff on the way here at PuR (!) including a terrifying, topical mega-artist album breakdown ( oh it’s a big one ), new essays on under-appreciated albums and artists in our ongoing and questionable “That’s Their Pet Sounds” series, as well as some deep dives into particular years in pop music history that will be full of nonsense, hot takes and cringe-worthy coming of age musical related memories ( uh oh ).
And so please stay tuned ( and subscribed ) for all the self-indulgent craziness coming soon ;)!
Don’t be scared. That’s just Sadie the small stuffed bird who hangs over my desk. My Mom gave her to me a few years ago after finding her at a yard sale. I have no idea why she is dressed like a spoiled Victorian child. And while she’s not as menacing as one of those terrifying antique dolls whose eyes follow you around the room, I can confirm she does give off a pretty impressive cute-creepy-demonic children’s choir vibe in person.
But hey, it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the most heart-squeezingly handsome songs we’ve heard over the past week. They are all 🔥 and tied for the #1 spot on the chart over on Earth 2. You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify below.