Month: May 2020

Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 17 !

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Yup, that will never get old 🙂 But hey, it’s time for the latest  🔥 WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST 🔥 featuring the finest new music we’ve heard in recent days. And this week was a good one full of epic pop guitar weirdness ( plus an excellent SWV cover) all of which I’m telling you is better than Gaga. You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify below.

Listen on Soundcloud:

Picking Up Rocks · Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 17 !

Listen on Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7aNhnt0SvZy1pWEfotYvCQ?si=ZD0EK-AhQj-Whd4Zm4h_WA

Lost in the’80s Playlist: A Celebration of Should’ve Been #1’s

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What you see above is my actual pen pal request as published in the UK’s greatest pop music magazine ever Smash Hits back in the ’80s. I was 100% desperate to know someone in England which I felt was home to the best music & what appeared to be the cutest people. I was both excited & disturbed when I first saw the published ad because while WOW I was in Smash Hits (!), they’d also re-punctuated my first sentence, changing the period to a question mark. It was actually a meant to be a statement about how I, teenage Hope, felt about music, not a question. But still, Smash Hits (with Heaven 17 on the cover) !!

The requirements for being my pen pal were obviously pretty stiff , as you couldn’t just be into The Police & Culture Club to write to my stupid arse, you had to be “REALLY” into them. And the “busy” part had zero to do with an active social life & everything to do with school & the commitment of my very first job…at the ‘One Hour Photo’ store one town over.

You can see why this ad might be absolute catnip to the universe.

Now to cover my bases in case that UK ad got no responses, I put an ad in a glossy Japanese music mag called “Music Life” as well because I was also desperate to connect pop music freaks in Japan. It appeared in an issue with my personal love God at the time David Sylvian on the cover which thrilled me far more than it should have.

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Inexplicably these ads worked. Within weeks of their being published I was inundated with hundreds of letters. Envelopes from Japan covered with stickers & cartoons that held intricately folded & elaborately decorated pieces of tissue stationary as well as actual photos of Ian McCulloch & Paul Weller arriving at the airport. Polaroids of people sitting in tiny bedrooms in Liverpool surrounded by Boy George paraphernalia. Old ticket stubs from recent New Order shows. And oh yes, there was some really weird shit too, mostly coming from a particular grown man who lived in Kidderminster but we’ll just leave it at that. Oh ’80s…

Yup, that pen pal pursuit is one of my most cherished memories of being a music nut-nerd in the ’80s ( and yes, I still have a bunch of letters saved somewhere).

And so, to celebrate those glossy, glittery, shiny pop times, I wholeheartedly offer you the genre-spanning, head spinning LOST IN THE ’80s PLAYLIST, a mighty fine, fittingly massive selection of wondrous singles that didn’t quite ascend to the heights they deserved & foxy deep cuts that never got to be singles but should’ve been.

There are 60 tracks (!) & all are gently gathered the YouTube playlist below ! I truly hope you discover ( or rediscover) something in here that both blows your mind & inspires you to investigate these particular artists . Let the music play…  

Quick note: Why YouTube ? Well while putting this together I discovered a lot of these songs were not available on Apple Music or Spotify. Thankfully most could be found within the lord’s # 1 rabbit hole i.e. YouTube. You can hear the playlist featuring all these little wonders below ( & in some cases, enjoy the added bonus of seeing some VERY ’80s videos).

Listen here ! :

One last note while we’re here: I want to acknowledge & pledge my eternal love to these people, places & things below, nearly all of which are gone now but provided endless joy & fascination to a whole lotta teen pop nerds back in the ’80s. Bless them all to the last :

Magazines: Smash Hits, Number One, Record Mirror, Melody Maker, Sounds & NME

Record Shops ( in NY ): Slipped Disc, Rebel Rebel, Record Runner, Vinylmania, Discorama, Record World, It’s Only Rock’n Roll, Musical Maze & good old Tower on W.4th

Radio : WLIR-WDRE

You all ruled, thank you forever…

 

 

Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 16 !

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Keeping it simple this week. Welcome to the latest Weekly New Wonders Playlist featuring our favorite songs from recent days. It’s a bit shorter than usual this week but that means you can give each one extra attention. All sweet, all swell, all🔥 !!!

Listen on Soundcloud:

Listen on Spotify:

 

Soul in the Middle of the Road : A Playlist

You know everybody’s got their own way of doing anything, like you take this particular song for instance, it’s been done by many but I gotta do it my way…

(Bobby Womack’s spoken intro to his 1971 cover of James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain’)

 

Back in the ’70s, long before that thing called streaming existed, the primary ways to hear the latest pop music were by watching TV variety shows, hanging out at the record store or by tuning into the most powerful pop music purveyor of them all, the AM radio.

And so because there were a limited number of places and airtime hours available to hear the latest pop music, people were generally exposed to a very specific bunch of songs at a time, as determined by whoever was programming all the aforementioned outlets. This meant that both younger and older generations were ultimately acquainted with the same hits. In other words, the pop Top 40 consisted of songs everybody knew regardless of their age, ethnicity or gender (a mad phenomenon we shall never ever know again).

This inevitably resulted in some existential and horrifying musical dilemmas wherein you and your parents could potentially end up liking the same song. Case in point, I loved Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”, but so did my freakin’ Mom and that was 100% unacceptable. Speaking of which…

There were a whole lotta sensitive white boy singer-songwriters and easy listening hippie chicks in the charts in the ’70s. The sound they made was collectively referred to as MOR aka middle of the road better known these days as Soft Rock. To further clarify, The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Neil Young rocked. James Taylor, Bread and America soft rocked. MOR songs were all crazy in love with everything the universe offered, most especially ladies, summer, horses and Chevy vans.

Of course at the end of the day it really didn’t matter whether a song was technically soul, country, rock or it’s aforementioned soft subdivision because once a song hit the Top 40 in the ’70s world, it fell into one singular category: it was a pop song.

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Lady + Horse + Summer = ’70s MOR Pop Music…

 

And of course artists were listening too so it was inevitable that some of these ubiquitous Soft Rock songs were going to get covered. And so began a small sub-trend wherein traditional Soul artists started covering Top 40 tracks by these MOR artists and molding them into R & B songs. These covers were rarely if ever straight copies of the originals, in fact it was pretty common for arrangements to be tweaked and lyrics to be altered. And of course if you were an artist of the masculine lover man variety it was mandatory to offer a little preamble at the beginning of the song because girl, there’s something you need to understand.

🔥 Welcome to the PuR Soul in the Middle of the Road Playlist featuring the best Soul covers of MOR-Soft Rock hits from the ’70s that were also recorded in the ’70s ( and a couple from the very early ’80s) 🔥

Sometimes weird, occasionally messy, often wonderful and in more than a few cases straight up better than the originals that inspired them. The jasmine’s in bloom…

*And yes, while Nina Simone is a Jazz artist, her version of “Alone Again Naturally” has to be heard to be believed.

 

Listen Here ! :

 

 
*And hey one last thing ! : There are a couple of tracks I wanted to include in the playlist that are not available on Spotify. One is only available on CD as of this writing and the other you can hear below on YouTube !

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Carla Thomas: In 2013 a cd featuring previously unissued music from recording sessions Thomas did back in 1970 with legendary producer Chips Moman was released. There are a bunch of covers on it including an absolutely smokin’ version of James Taylor’s “Country Road”. Unfortunately it’s neither on YouTube or the streaming services as of this writing but it’s worth picking up the actual cd, which is basically a soul version of Dusty Springfield’s classic “Dusty in Memphis” album (if only it had been released at the time, sigh).

Lea Roberts: Listen as Neil Sedaka’s 1975 # 1 soft rock classic is given a super soul injection by Roberts.

Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 15 !

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That is a photo of the actual kitchen in my childhood home in the ’80s. None more brown. And yes, there was carpeting in the kitchen because that’s how my Mom rolled (and still does so eat over the table please). The only thing missing from the picture is Daisy, our basset hound at the time…who was also brown. Just wanted to share something warm & fuzzy (literally) this week to help combat the restless mayhem for a minute. And with that, welcome to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the absolute finest new songs we’ve heard in recent days, all of them #1’s in a better parallel universe.

Listen on Soundcloud:

Listen on Spotify:

Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 14 !

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“You should give him a chance, he really understands women”.

So said one 16 year old girl ( my friend) to another ( me) back in the early ’80s about the guy celebrating his 71st birthday this week, Billy Joel. This was a pretty commonplace topic for us. I would try to explain why The Police were the best & she would counter with her arguments in support of B.Joel. But nothing could change my mind. He had so many marks in the NO Column for me. He wasn’t British. He wasn’t rock star cute. A large part of his fanbase seemed to be grown ass adults. “Just the Way You Are” (ugh). “She’s Always a Woman to Me” ( make it stop). He was resolutely uncool & I was not interested in anything he had to offer.

At that point, avoiding him had become somewhat challenging. Not just because my closest friend worshipped him but because we were living on Long Island, Billy Joel ground zero, his birthplace. Make no mistake, on Long Island, Billy Joel was a God.

Back to high school. When Billy announced the tour to support his latest album at the time “The Nylon Curtain”, my friend bought tickets & then adamantly stated that we were going. The show was of course at freakin’ Nassau Coliseum meaning it was a “hometown show” so the hardcore, evangelical Lawng I-lind pride would be in full effect. It sounded slightly nauseating  but fine, whatever, I’ll go, jeezus.

My rejection plan remained in tact until about halfway through the show. Just like the infamous Simpson’s moment when Lisa spurned Martin & the exact point his heart burst was captured on national television, I remember the precise moment I started liking Billy Joel. There was a song on “Nylon Curtain” called “Goodnight Saigon”, an emotional reminiscence from the perspective of a Vietnam veteran. It’s a gigantic piano power ballad featuring the sound of helicopter blades over it’s opening notes. He started playing it & okay, it sounded kind of good. Then during the song about a dozen actual Vietnam vets came onstage, put their arms around each other & sang the pseudo chorus, “And we would all go down together”, swaying together from side to side. They were crying. Then, all of a sudden I was crying. I’d never cried at a show before in my life ( bad seats at Disney on Ice one year aside). It was embarrassing but also a little shocking to me. F-ing Billy Joel had infiltrated, he’d gotten to me. Boom.

That was it. I went out & bought the album the next day. Then, over time, welcomed the rest of his catalog into my life. Anyway, Happy 71st Billy, sorry I was such jerk to you as young one, I hope you can forgive me.

And now it’s time for the finest in new music. Welcome to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST, featuring the ABSOLUTE FINEST SONGS we’ve heard in recent days. Turn it up 🐝

Listen on Soundcloud:

Listen on Spotify:

 

Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 13 !

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Hey Y’all, welcome to week 300 of this “thing”. I humbly offer a small, melodic salve in the form of this week’s WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest songs we’ve heard in recent days. You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify (links below) & let it wash over you. I bow to all these artists as there are some particularly sweet things in there & it’s made this hell-scape seem slightly less hellish today which is an absolute blessing.

Listen on Soundcloud:

Listen on Spotify:

Lost in the’90s Playlist : A Celebration of Forgotten Deep Cuts

Over the course of the ’90s, I worked in 2 music stores in New York City. No, they were not of the cool, indie, High Fidelity variety, they were both behemoth, double stuf megastores. Which meant when it came to in-store play we weren’t listening to Captain Beefheart, Alice Coltrane or Daniel Johnston, but were getting exclusively rocked with whatever the latest major label releases were. Sure on the cool end it meant getting to hear good shit like Garbage or Liz Phair in their entirety…but it also meant wading through more challenging and horrifying noise like Rusted Root and Candlebox on a regular basis. Of course you could attach value to the latter experience by connecting it to the notion that you were “broadening your knowledge” and therefore better able to help customers ( at least that’s what I did) but if you were having a bad day, hearing an hour of Ugly Kid Joe could ignite a truly debilitating migraine ( true story).

Anyway, when the official store DJ’s weren’t around, we would throw albums into the 5 CD changer & just let ’em play all the way through. And, gonna get flowery here,  sometimes something magical would happen. Popping in these whole albums meant you’d end up hearing a lot of deep cuts. And doing that meant every now and then you would stumble (literally) on something really f-ing amazing that you’d never heard before.

Anyway, all that got me thinking it might be cool to shine a light on some songs & artists that got a bit lost in the immense MTV-Spin Magazine-Lollapalooza-Lilith Fair-Britpop-New Jack Swing-Grunge tornado of the ’90s and so….Welcome to the genre-spanning, head spinning 💥 LOST IN THE ’90s PLAYLIST 💥 a mighty fine selection of wondrous singles that didn’t quite ascend to the heights they deserved & foxy deep cuts that never got to be singles but should’ve been. There are 60 tracks (!) & all are gently gathered the YouTube playlist below ! I truly hope you discover ( or rediscover) something in here that both blows your mind & inspires you to investigate these particular artists . Let it play ⚡️ 

Quick note: Why YouTube ? Well while putting this together I discovered a lot of these songs were not available on Apple Music or Spotify. Thankfully most could be found within the lord’s # 1 rabbit hole i.e. YouTube. You can hear the playlist featuring all these little wonders below ( & in some cases, enjoy the added bonus of seeing some VERY 90s videos).