Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 21 !

 

Under normal circumstances we would be at what is considered the halfway point of the year. Even though all demarcation points & terms of measurement are now officially irrelevant & we are operating one day at a time, we’re gonna follow the lead of other music blog friends & mention some of the finer albums we’ve heard this hellacious year. The albums depicted above each provided something different & have served as perfect salves, ideal distractions & best friends during this mess of 2020.

Owen Pallett: Island

Bibio: Sleep On The Wing

Tenille Townes: The Lemonade Stand

They are melodic medicine & I’m glad they exist. Links are attached below if you want to check ’em out !

And now back to the regular programming which is to say welcome to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest songs we’ve heard in recent days ! You can listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify.

I bow with a flower to all these artists for these brilliant songs that are all currently # 1 in a better universe.

Listen on Soundcloud:

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3 Fine & Fave Albums of 2020:

Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 20 !

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No weird stories or anecdotes to offer up this week, just going to stick with the facts & welcome you to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST . Listen below to the finest, sleekest & sweetest new songs we’ve heard over the past week, all of which are #1’s in a finer universe.

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A More Down Hero: Wings “Back To The Egg (1979)

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An imagined “Dear Paul” letter from Wings’ 1979 album Back To the Egg:

Dear Paul,

What did I do wrong ? Why do you hate me so much ? Why, as of this writing, have you extended the deluxe treatment to albums that are nowhere as good as I am like Pipes of Peace and Wild Life and not me ? Why don’t any of my songs ever get included in your live shows ? Why whenever anyone mentions me, are you so completely dismissive ? You once said I wasn’t so much a concept album as I was a bomb-cept album. Don’t you love me ? Did you ever ? Won’t you help me to understand.

Yours (literally),

Back To the Egg

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Paul in 1979, year of the Egg.

Background: It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when but at some point over the past 20 years music writers and critics began casting a considerably more benevolent eye toward Paul McCartney’s post-Beatle output than they’d offered up in the past. And if you were a fan who’d experienced any of Paul’s solo and Wings stuff being released in real time it was impossible not to notice this seismic shift in opinion. I remember going to buy Pipes of Peace on release day and the guy behind the counter sweetly telling me it was “shit” as I handed over my money to buy it ( admittedly not Paul’s finest album but still). For years writers, record clerks, even other musicians all seemed to be equipped with the same default button, the one that was stuck on Paul solo sucks.

But time has been exceptionally kind to the output of post-Beatle Paul and the seemingly ingrained perceptions have changed. Maybe because the context and expectations have been removed and the albums can finally be listened to at face value. And certainly the ongoing Paul McCartney Archive Collection deluxe reissue program with it’s wondrous, remastered, dolled up versions of selected catalogue titles has helped open ears and eyes. Or maybe, cynically, the awareness that Paul’s a senior citizen and we should appreciate him while he’s still here has come into play. Whatever it is, Paul’s post-Beatle albums are gradually getting their deserved due. Albums once considered substandard and sloppy have come to be regarded as masterpieces (1971’s magnificent Ram). 1980’s McCartney II, described cruelly in the Rolling Stone magazine review upon release as “aural doodles designed for the amusement of very young children” is now rightfully acknowledged for it’s prescience and originality. And time has also shone kindly on the glorious, sugared-up pop of Red Rose Speedway (1973) and Venus & Mars (1975) after years of their being written off as subpar radio pandering cheese.

But alas, this deserved reassessment and acknowledgement hasn’t extended to quite all of the children. I’m speaking specifically of 1979’s Back to the Egg. It’s especially grating in light of the belated love that’s been directed at lesser lights ( okay, gonna say it… I think 1989’s Flowers in the Dirt is supremely overrated). Egg remains a true full length stepchild in the McCartney canon. No deluxe Archive treatment ( despite rumors). No anniversary celebrations. No love at live shows. Egg gets zero.

And here’s the thing, amongst many of the hardcore Macca fans and music nerds I’ve spoken to over the years, the general consensus seems to be that Back To The Egg is objectively brilliant. A loud, beautiful, blaring down the highway, mess of an album and the most criminally underrated release of Paul’s post-Beatle career: the catalogue’s true sleeper. Everyone, can I get a SALAMANDER ( that’s a reference expressly inserted for you Macca nerds. To everyone else I apologize ).

And now as a quick reminder of what we’re dealing with from a historical perspective, here are some highlights from the late Timothy White’s original Rolling Stone review of 1979’s Back To The Egg aka the last official release of Paul McCartney’s post-Beatle band Wings:

“This album is nothing more than a slipshod demo by an aimless band. If it had arrived unsolicited in the offices of Columbia, it would have been returned in the next mail with a terse “No thank you.”
I can think of few other prominent rock musicians who’d have signed their names to this kind of drivel. McCartney’s gross indulgence is matched only by his shameless indolence, and Back to the Egg represents the public disintegration of a consistently disappointing talent…Back to the Egg is just about the sorriest grab bag of dreck in recent memory.”

Damn. Timothy White really hated Back To The Egg.

If a Tree Falls: What does it mean when an artist passively denies an album’s existence by simply ignoring it ? Besides the one above, the reviews for Egg upon release were across the board savage, full of exceptionally hyperbolic vitriol and personal attacks. Why was the hostility ratcheted up so high when it came to Egg in particular ? While it may not have been the equal of what was considered to be Macca’s most esteemed post-Beatle album at that time Band On The Run, it wasn’t that bad ( and to my then young teen ears it was amazing with a giant A). What did they want from him ?

That’s a trick question. They wanted nothing. To them he’d had his ration of success and acclaim ( understatement) and had stopped trying. They thought he was complacent. He was 37 years old and to them his attempts to seem sonically modern and tough came over as desperate, especially in light of all the soon to be seminal albums sprouting up around him as of 1979 (by the likes of The Specials, The Clash, XTC and Joy Division in particular). They wanted him to get out of the way.

‘Cos I Got a Whole Lotta Love For You: The most pronounced quality of Back To the Egg was it’s noticeable increase in volume in comparison to all previous Macca releases. Egg was, for all intents and purposes, a hard rock record… but it’s much more fun to think of it as PAUL’S F-ING METAL ALBUM 🤘. Roughly 6 of it’s 12 musical tracks tug aggressively ( yet sweetly) on Satan’s hem, drunkenly bouncing off the walls with loads of fat riffs, sludgy chords and throat shredding vocal performances. With the exception of “Helter Skelter” Egg remains as metal as Paul has ever been. Representing the noise are “Spin It On”, “Old Siam, Sir”, “Rockestra Theme”, “So Glad To See You Here”,”To You” and “Getting Closer”, every single one being some manner of infectious and sloppy drunk on itself. For those songs as well the album’s ballads, the Paul vocal switch is set to full throttle.

 

“Getting Closer”, the album’s highest charting single still kicks all kinds of ass.

 

The Soft Stuff: A cryptic and eerie hymn (“We’re Open Tonight”), a gothic and doomy ballad ( “Winter Rose”) and the requisite Macca unabashed tribute to love (“Love Awake”) supremely fill in the spaces between the noise. In addition there’s a quality singalong written and sung by band member Denny Laine (“Again and Again and Again”) as well as some straight up romantic retro kitsch because Paul can’t help himself (“Baby’s Request”). And “The Broadcast”, wherein Paul has the owner of the castle the album was recorded at recite a pair of obscure book excerpts, adds a bit of perfect pretentious weirdness to the proceedings.

And oh yeah, Egg is also home to arguably one of the all time greatest McCartney songs ever ever ever, sublimely melodic lament and deep catalog dark horse “Arrow Through Me” which can never be exulted and appreciated enough. It’s hook is just…I have no words.

 

 

The song has developed a bit of a cult following over the years, the finest manifestation of which came in the form of Erykah Badu’s “Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long” from 2010.

 

 

What If It Happened To You ?: Bad reviews dovetailed into disappointing sales (compared to all the previous post-Beatle releases that is, as Paul himself commented not long after, Egg’s sales would’ve been considered quite healthy by a “normal” band’s standards). And, maybe unsurprisingly, Paul seemed to start distancing himself from it. When asked about it later he’d said at the time of recording he’d been feeling bored and restless working within a band set-up, implying that this ennui affected it’s overall quality…but that may be a bit revisionist analysis so as to align with the myriad of mediocre reviews. Maybe all that negativity got to him. Which is a damn shame because there are a whole lotta people who don’t agree and think the critical assessments were just plain wrong, who continue to believe Back to the Egg rocks and rules in equal measure all day and all of the night.

Loud, lyrically cartoonish, overtly romantic, fabulously weird, occasionally somber and all the while innately melodic, Back To The Egg remains a confusedly beautiful piece of noise. Bless it forever.

P.S. A special nod of appreciation to the Wings logo light fixtures on the album cover. I will never stop wanting you.

Listen to Back To The Egg right here:

 

 

 

Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 19 !

I have this giant book with pictures of old baseball cards. It weighs 10 lbs. so looking at it requires you to actually sit upright & rest it on your lap or an actual table. In other words, reclining with it is potentially dangerous. There are literally thousands of cards depicted in it & it’s oddly, hypnotically fascinating looking at all these faces dating back from the early ’50s onto 1990, the overwhelming majority of whom are not famous nor have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, a percentage of whom are no longer earthly beings. These guys with their “weird” names, once relatively common, now extinct ( Herm, Milt, Connie). Every time I’ve ever perused this book, I’ve gotten the same “existential” thoughts, wondering what they were thinking ( assuming they were) as they were being captured for posterity at their official moment of glory ( assuming it was). “I’ve made it”.”I’m now immortal”. “Am I ever going to get off the bench and start ?”. “This isn’t as gratifying a career as I thought it would be”. Never “I’m the shit”. It’s always something marginally insecure. Maybe I’m giving them too much credit but I like the idea of them questioning the universe. Anyway, the cards above date back to the early ’60s & every one of these guys seems to have something on his mind & I thought I’d give them a bonus moment of glory just because …

Anyway, hey ! Welcome to the latest 🔥 WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST 🔥 featuring the finest songs we’ve heard over recent hot days. All handsome, all # 1’s in a better universe. Dig in below…

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“I was an 11 year old stalker”: Discovering the Genius of the Bee Gees

 

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The Bee Gees epically wonderful live album from 1977, Here At Last…Bee Gees…Live is finally being reissued on vinyl this month. It is a 2 LP behemoth built on astounding songwriting, otherworldly harmonizing and glorious beards. It is also the key artifact from my former life as an 11 year old stalker. I can explain…

 

The manner in which I first discovered the Bee Gees is honestly somewhat unsettling though I prefer to just call it “weird” because it makes me feel better about it. I was 11 years old at the time. I’d like to say I’d seen them on TV and they’d blown my mind…or that I’d heard “Nights on Broadway” on the radio ( one of their then recent hits ), loved it instantly and begged my Mom to get me to the record store asap but alas, no. The sole reason I bought the Bee Gees 2 LP live album Here at Last was because the object of a supremely misguided childhood crush had it in his collection. That crush categorization is not an exaggeration sadly for the object of my affection was not in fact an adolescent peer but a newly and happily married grown ass man over the age of 30 with a beard.

I’m uncertain of exactly when my infatuation started but once it did, look out y’all, it became the absolute center of my daily existence. He lived across the street from my family and was just one of those people who had a natural rapport with kids. He never spoke down to me and unlike most adults seemed to truly appreciate my sarcastic sense of humor. He indulged my endless rambling about Paul McCartney and baseball and we would make fun of each other relentlessly. Anyway, I just thought he was the coolest person ever and I wanted to be around him every hour of every day.

Once summer arrived that year, he told me he was embarking on a major weekend project wherein he was going to paint his entire 2 story white stucco house a nice beige with dark brown trim. This sounded amazing for it meant he would be outside and “available” to me for as many hours as it took him to paint every Saturday and Sunday over summer vacation.

All day, every weekend I would sit at the foot of whatever side of the house he was working on and stare up at him on his ladder as he chipped and scraped all the old paint off in preparation for the new coat. I’d like to describe it poetically and say the white paint chips fell like summer snow around me as the chirping song of the cicadas filled the air…but mostly it was me sitting there perspiring in the sweltering sun, in my baseball cap and shorts as WCBS Oldies radio blared, trying to think of “cute” things to say that would impress him and make him fall in love with me ( whatever that meant to my immature brain at the time).

As if that weren’t enough to make my intent clear, every weekday morning I made sure to walk my dog at the exact time he left for work, just so I could wave to him as he pulled around the corner in his white Volvo.

Basically I was an 11 year old stalker. There’s no nice way to put it.

But he and his wife, who was also supremely sweet to me, thought I was a good kid…so good that when they went on vacation to France that year they asked if I wanted to feed their cat, an irritable guy named Bunky, and bring in their mail while they were away for the week.

It was as if they had bestowed upon me a precious gift, for this assignment would offer me ample opportunity to, you know, look at stuff in their house, undisturbed, at my leisure. I’d been inside before but not without supervision so the prospect of this was nothing less than thrilling. Now don’t get me wrong, I also wanted to do the best job ever, with them arriving home after their long journey to witness Bunky happier and healthier than when they’d left him and the mail piled as neatly as if it were a museum exhibit on the table, thereby scoring maximum “love points” which I naively assumed I could .

And all in all, I did a good job and behaved…well okay, I did take the opportunity rummage through their old photo albums and swoon over photos of him as if they were pin-ups in a teen magazine. And I may possibly have buried my face in a shirt hanging in the closet to catch a scent or something. But beyond that I totally did my job. And honestly the activity that excited me more than either of those things was of a far less salacious nature, namely getting to rumble through his record collection which was located in a cabinet in the dining room.

There were about 200 or so albums within it including multiple titles by the Bee Gees. Hmmm, he seemed to like the Bee Gees a lot. It was clear what needed to happen. I too had to like the Bee Gees. Which meant I had to buy an actual Bee Gees album. Being young and solely obsessed with the outward appearance of material things ( toys, cars, animals etc.) it made sense that the album I gravitated toward was the one with the fattest spine ( 2 LP’s), the coolest cover and the most songs. It was Here At Last…Bee Gees…Live. That was the one I would get.

I can’t quite recall when I bought it, I think it was a few days after I’d first seen it there. All I know is that once I made the hefty purchase, which took every nickel of my meagre savings, I instantly felt closer to him. Even though he didn’t know it yet, we now officially shared something.

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The inner gatefold of the album is a terrible triple exposure photo I resent to this day.

“It’s great to be in Los Angeleez”

( Barry Gibb greeting the crowd at the end of “Love So Right”)

Now to be clear, I was familiar with the Bee Gees, I knew they were 3 brothers for example, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, I’d just never owned any of their records. And not only was this my first album of theirs, it was also the first “live” album I ever owned. While it employs some of the fabulous tropes of live albums of the day like the  occasionally irritating horn section and crowd exhortations of “Everyone come on!”, it’s mostly all business, the brothers offering up one song after another in assembly line fashion.

Yet it was a curious listening experience for the Bee Gees were going through an extreme sonic identity crisis at the time it was recorded (and were soon to land hard on planet disco). It features baroque and esoteric ’60s pop, lowly ’70s pub rock and proto-soul disco all stuffed into the same show. And as it was spread over 2 records aka 4 sides, my juvenile attention span just wasn’t up to the challenge of listening to the whole thing (despite my wanting it solely because it was BIG). Thus it wasn’t long before I became completely fixated on a singular side of the album which I found myself playing endlessly to the exclusion of all others.

To translate in vinyl speak, it was all about Side 2. The track listing is as follows:

1-New York Mining Disaster 1941 
2-Medley (Run To Me / World) 
3-Medley (Holiday, I Can’t See Nobody, I Started A Joke, Massachusetts) 
4-How Can You Mend A Broken Heart 
5-To Love Somebody

The side consisted solely of singles from earlier in the band’s career all dating back to the late ’60s and early ’70s. There are 2 medleys and each song is performed in proto-unplugged style with the brothers Gibb harmonizing around a single microphone for the majority (with Barry strumming his acoustic guitar).

I’d never heard any of these songs before and was completely enthralled…but not just by the songs themselves by the weird stuff that seemed to be going on around and within them. For starters I wasn’t sure if Robin Gibb was a good singer or not, with his vocal tone more often than not resembling that of a bleating sheep. And what did “New York Mining Disaster 1941” and “Massachusetts” even mean ? And why was the audience screaming so much, what was happening that I couldn’t see ? And why does Barry keep doing that breathy thing with his voice ? The whole of Side 2 was a mystery that I needed to solve which meant playing it over and over to the point that when I finally heard the original, full length studio versions of the songs represented I didn’t like them. I wanted the warm security blanket of the live, stripped down, truncated, debatably weird versions filling my ears. I guess you could liken it to Nirvana fans who prefer the Unplugged versions of songs to their initial studio incarnations, marginally sacrilegious but love is love.

While the Bee Gees are obviously the stars of the album, the LA Forum audience also deliver an exceptional performance, offering consistently jarring full body shrieks in response to every drawn out syllable, breathy Barry delivery, dramatic Robin pause and brotherly harmonic convergence throughout the album, especially during the tracks on Side 2. They never stop. They are endlessly losing their sh*t.

The show the album was recorded from was actually filmed but for some reason the brothers didn’t like it and it was never released…and I’m okay with that. I think it would spoil the album’s charms, which has a lot to do with the aforementioned audience. Those moments of mystery where it’s clear something they are seeing as opposed to something they are hearing is making them scream, well, I don’t want that mystery to be solved. Whatever it is that seems to be happening during “I Can’t See Nobody”, I’d rather not know.

Thankfully I’ve come to appreciate the other 3 sides over the years ( or in steaming parlance, the other tracks) and remain staggered by the songwriting gift on display. How could they write so many amazing songs ??? It’s truly insane…okay “Boogie Child” is still  bullsh*t but every show needs a bathroom break.

 

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Fun fact: I stole $ out of my Mom’s wallet to buy this mag with the Bee Gees on the cover. Yes, I got caught.

Back to our “love”story: Upon their return from France they presented me with a cool burgundy coin/ keychain with the Eiffel Tower on it that I used for years and wish to God I still had ( it got lost along the way). And though I don’t recollect the details, my older man crush and I did go on to have genuine Bee Gees related discussions. Mission accomplished and one step closer…or so I thought.

After about a year or so of my passive aggressive courting, fate intervened in the form of my Mother. One morning immediately following my daily dog walk-wave routine she confronted me about my behavior. She’d suddenly become concerned with the relentless fervor of my pursuit. She glared at me saying “this needs to stop” and “you are making everyone really uncomfortable”. This was a surprise. Huh ? Who’s everyone ? I remember feeling embarrassed that people actually knew…especially her. But come to think of it, the other kids did make little comments. I’d been the opposite of discreet. Yup, I was in love and it freakin’ showed every day I stepped out the door. And though my crush never said anything about it, it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe he was “uncomfortable” too and didn’t want to embarrass me.

And so I stopped. Literally, from then on. It was abundantly clear from my Mom’s tone that she meant business and I didn’t fight her on it. I do remember crying right after she spoke to me but not much else. And as it happened, maybe because of this cold turkey approach, my feelings for him did start to fade soon after. For one thing Junior High was about to begin and I suddenly had more pressing concerns ( staying alive being the main one).

Still while my crush was fading into the past, my love for the Bee Gees was growing exponentially. I actively began collecting all the LPs becoming especially fixated on 3 particular ones; Main Course, Children of the World and this oddball oldie I’d found in the cut-out bin for $1.99 called Mr. Natural . They remain embedded in my heart in the way those albums are when you first came to know them in childhood. You know every inflection on them inside out, and the way they make you feel sets the standard for everything that comes after. And yes, of course I bought Saturday Night Fever when it was released ( before the film itself was), I’d been primed. It was the first Bee Gees album I’d bought in real time.

Man did I love these…

Beginning in the ’90s, like a lot of people, I started buying cd versions of my vinyl collection. I still loved the Bee Gees and so it was inevitable that I would get around to Here At Last. Though many years had passed since I’d first heard it, the instant I queued it up, I was transported back to my blue shag carpeted bedroom. Even looking at the cover photo of the Gibb brothers awash in garish red light around the mike triggered memories of my not as secret as I’d ignorantly assumed obsession with my neighbor. Truth be told, deep down I was still actually a little embarrassed about the whole “affair”, the misguided contents of my 11 year old heart so brazenly on display for everyone to see and all that…but it also made me laugh at how f-ing weird I was and how I used the Bee Gees as this special love glue, this inroad to commonality and bonding.

One day around 2010 or so I absentmindedly googled my neighbor crush’s name for the first time ( seriously, I’d never done it before for some reason)…and the first thing that popped up was an obituary. It turned out he’d died back in 2007. He and his wife had moved a couple of years after the “summer of love” as did my own family and we’d organically lost contact over time. I think the last time I spoke to him was when I was around 13 or so, I honestly can’t remember.

But know what, I’ll always be grateful to him, not just because he was always so cool, kind and tolerant of my crazy little ass but because he gave me something I still have to this day, this musical gift. Not just the fabulous Gibbs themselves of whom I own every album, but just the joy of talking about music with someone older who loved it, who knew stuff I didn’t, who could teach me things. I had no clue at that stage that nearly my whole adult life would see me involved in the music universe and that my burgeoning love for pop music would introduce me to the most amazing human beings I’ve ever known. He put a brick in that life foundation.

Listening to the album again as I’m writing this makes the memories of that summer  come flooding back. Anyway, I just want to say thanks LS wherever you are, for letting me hang out with you all those days, being my pal and giving me something amazing that I don’t know you were even aware you were giving to me. Gonna treasure it forever.

Listen to the album here:

 

Here At Last is officially re-released on vinyl 6/26 through Capitol/UMe

Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 18 !

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And so here we are. And all I’m going to do this week is straight up, no frills introduce & offer the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new music we’ve heard over recent days. Here’s truly hoping you find something to love.

Listen on Soundcloud:


Listen on Spotify:

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.