Sunday, February 19, 2012
This one's for Agnes
...and The Reducers!
Agnes- Donnie Iris Back On The Streets
Girls Like That- The Yum Yums Singles 'n' Stuff
Baby's Got a Secret- The Wellingtons In Transit
She's So Close- Millard Powers Nashpop: A Nashville Pop Compilation
Not What It Appears- The Tories Wonderful Life
You Say- The Kwyet Kings Been Where? Done What?
If Looks Could Kill- Incredible Kidda Band Too Much, Too Little, Too Late
It's Ok- Radio City Class of '77
^Why Can't I- Liz Phair Liz Phair
We'll Never Know- Wild Giraffes Right Now!
Time Machine- The Click Five Greetings From Imrie House
*What We Do- Saucers Saucers Saucers Saucers
*Not A Chance- Tot Rocket & the Twins Television Rules
*Small Talk- International Q International Q 7"
*Out of Step- The Reducers Redux
*West Coast- October Days West Coast 7"
*Dear Abby- TV Neats Demos
*Reach For The Sky- Roger C. Reale Radioactive
No- The Rezillos Can't Stand the Rezillos
Runaways- In The Night Nick Gilder You Know Who You Are
Something In Common- Free Energy Free Energy
Window To The World- Velvet Crush In The Presence Of Greatness
Stuff 'n' Junk- Slaters The Big Black Bug Bled Black Blood
Take The Cash (K.A.S.H)- Wreckless Eric Big Smash
>Going All The Way- The Squires Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era, Vol. 2
A to B- The Futureheads The Futureheads
Too Young- The Fingers On The Radio
No More Idols- Nervous Eaters Eat This!
The Stranded Stars- The Shazam Godspeed the Shazam
Don't Cry To Me Babe- Sneakers Ear Cartoons
Closing Time- The Reducers Let's Go
^Power Pop Peak: #32 Billboard Hot 100 9/8/03
*SacroSet: Nutmeg State Power Pop
>Power Pop Prototype: 1966
I love the Internet, yet I do miss the random ways we used to learn about new music. Case in point, the 1982 debut single by The Reducers from New London, CT. Thirty years after its release, "Out Of Step" still blows me away, from the military sounding drum and bass intro to the explosive chorus and bridge harmony to the over the top third verse:
But there's a pressure all the time
To go join up and stand in line
But if they think I'm one of them
Well they must be f***ing blind
Don't they see that I'm out of touch
I'm out of step
I'm out of touch with reality
I'm out of touch, out of step....
It's an undisputed classic. My friend Lance was the first person to tell me about The Reducers. I usually heard about new music from Cousin Rich who, as I've said before, subscribed to both New York Rocker and Boston Rock and had a special radio that could pick up low-power Boston college radio station WMBR's "Late Risers Club." It's funny but I later learned that Lance first heard about The Reducers from Cousin Rich! (All three of us worked at Angelo's Supermarket in Kingston.)
Anyway, I was late to the party on many of the first wave punk bands, too young to see them in the clubs, but with The Reducers I felt like I was there from the beginning. Shortly after starting at Emerson College radio station WERS, I met an upperclassman named Dave. He and I liked a lot of the same bands- in fact that first year I followed his initials on the station's record album airplay stickers like a trail of rock & roll bread crumbs. Dave's greatest contribution however was a fake ID he gave me in the Fall of 1982. I quickly memorized my new fake identity (Daniel something from Wayland, Mass) complete with zodiac sign and Chinese birth year, never once of course being asked for either. My strategy was to hand the bouncer my ID while asking a question, something like "what time does the opening band go on?" The goal was to create a momentary confusion between the blue-eyed 24 year old dude on my ID and my brown-eyed 17 year old self. I later realized that the bouncer wants to let you in- the club wants your money- so as long as they have plausible deniability you're good. The fact that I didn't drink also kept me out of trouble because the ABC people were only concerned about under 21's being served alcohol.
I'm pretty sure I saw The Reducers first Boston show and that night I became a fan for life. A few years later they gave me a personal "perfect rock & roll moment" at TT The Bear's in Cambridge. I'd dragged nearly everyone I knew to the club and seeing all my friends packed onto the sweaty dance floor while the band played "Lets Go" made me feel like screaming "hey everybody we're all gonna get laid!!" at the top of my lungs. The Reducers are one of the least pretentious bands I've seen and they rock hard. Unlike the rock & roll cool (X, The Replacements) or quirky and tortured (Husker Du, Pixies) bands I liked, The Reducers were much more relatable. Not only did they dress like me in t-shirts (often pocket t's), faded Levi's, and Chuck Taylors, primary songwriters Peter Detmold and Hugh Birdsall were themselves college radio DJ's and HUGE music geeks. Big fans of mid-70's British pub rock groups like Dr. Feelgood and Ducks Deluxe, the two took a trip to London to see those bands arriving just in time to witness firsthand the summer 1977 British punk rock explosion. Inspired by early performances of The Clash, The Sex Pistols, and The Jam along with the whole "Do It Yourself" punk aesthetic, Detmold and Birdsall returned to New London and started The Reducers.
I interviewed The Reducers at least twice for WERS, once after a performance at The Channel and once at The Rat, and they were just the nicest guys. You could tell they are first and foremost music fans. In 1985 I was the host of WERS' local music show "Metrowave" and had The Reducers come in and play live in the studio. They played new songs "Runaway Home" and "Fistfight At The Beach" from their forthcoming Cruise To Nowhere album and at the end of the night gave me a ride back to my apartment- that's the kind of people they are. It was around this time that CMJ (College Music Journal) called The Reducers "the best unsigned band in America" and they appeared on the major label compilation Epic presents The Unsigned. And yet, rather than fall victim to the "one and done" syndrome that afflicts most major label signees, when The Reducers didn't get the deal they wanted they stuck to their guns and put out Cruise To Nowhere on their own Rave On label.
The band slowed down after that record and stopped touring nationally but they still record and play out every now and then. In 2006 the documentary film The Reducers America's Best Unsigned Band was released. They played up in Boston around that time and Cousin Rich said they rocked as hard as ever. Over 30 years and still going strong- God Bless The Reducers!
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Thursday, February 2, 2012
Sending a Valentine to Emily...and to Papa on his birthday.
Emily- The Blondes Swedish Heat
Listen To The Heartbeat- D.L. Byron Shake Some Action Vol 4
Heart- Rockpile Seconds Of Pleasure
Hearts In Her Eyes- The Searchers Hearts In Her Eyes 7"
Take This Heart Of Mine- The Saints Prehistoric Sounds
Break Your Heart- Mike Viola & The Candy Butchers Falling Into Place
Breakin My Heart- Vandykes Breakin My Heart Single
Break My Heart Tomorrow- Steve Blimkie & The Reason Steve Blimkie & The Reason
^Heartbeat- The Knack Get the Knack
Queen Of Hearts- Bobby Emmett Learning Love
Another Heartache- Any Trouble Wheels In Motion
Lonelyhearts- The Atlantics Lonelyhearts 7"
Lonely Hearts- Candy Whatever Happened To Fun
Another Nail For My Heart- Squeeze Singles: 45's and Under
*Valentine- Fools Face Tell America
*Valentines Day- Three Hour Tour Three Hour Tour - 1969
*A Valentine Song- The Outlets Whole New World
*Valentine- The Replacements Pleased To Meet Me
Heart Breaker- The Lonely Boys The Lonely Boys
Heartbreaker- Knots Heartbreaker 7"
Brokenhearted- Ray Paul & RPM Go Time
Heart- Ian North Neo LP
Lock On My Heart- The Zippers A Six Song Mini Album
>Heart- Barry & The Remains The Remains
Hearts Will Be Broken- The Records Crashes
Heartbeat- Jim Freeman & The Golden Gate Jumpers Romantic
Do You Wanna Break My Heart- The Sweat No More Running
You Broke My Heart- The Vibrators Pure Mania
I Could Break Your Heart- Oranjuly Oranjuly
Heart Of The City- Nick Lowe Jesus Of Cool
Heart On The Line- The Tearjerkers Murder Mystery 7"
Ways Of The Heart- The Cretones Thin Red Line
^Power Pop Peak: Get The Knack #1 Billboard 200 Summer 1979
*SacroSet: Valentine's Songs
>Power Pop Prototype: 1966
When I was working on this show last week I mentioned to Jaime that I had come up with a cool theme but before I could tell her what it was, she said "Oh, Valentine's Day." My response: "D'oh!" Of course it should be a Valentine's show, what was I thinking? So, after spending an hour or so on this other idea (which you'll hear in a future show) I went in a Valentine's direction. Here's where iTunes' power as a music database really comes in handy. A quick search on "Valentine" gave me the four songs in tonight's SacroSet and another search on "Heart" gave me about three shows worth of potential material. The interesting thing is that the vast majority of the songs were in the heart "broken" rather than heart "full of love" camp. For every "Heart" by Rockpile
Heart, why are you pounding like a hammer
Heart, why are you beating like a drum
Heart, why do you make such a commotion
When I'm waiting for my baby to come
There are about three or four songs like "Lonelyhearts" by The Atlantics:
I see fear and despair written all over your face
But it’s no disgrace, the life is lived below
You think that against you the entire world has sinned
Against the wall you’re pinned, while everyone throws stones
Lonely, lonely, lonely hearts
There’s nobody like lonely, lonely, lonely hearts
You know that I can hear your heartbeat
I know something’s going on
I can hear your heartbeat
On and on and on and on
In other words, heartbreak clearly carries the day. I don't know if this is because of how most relationships end (badly) or because bitterness and spite make for better songwriting inspiration (debatable). Maybe its because the recently jilted find themselves with more time on their hands and those not indulging revenge fantasies turn to songwriting for solace. Or to rub salt in the wound- myself, I've gone both ways.
I've always dismissed Valentine's Day as a modern marketing gimmick. In my case, I'm lucky because my wife's birthday is the week before so if I get the B-day right I can low key it on 14th. In any case, I was surprised to read that the first association of romantic love and 2/14 goes all the way back to a poem written by Geoffrey Chaucer (the "Canterbury Tales" dude) in 1382 called Parlement of Foules:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
["For this was on Saint Valentine's Day,
when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."]
The Catholics even tried to put the kibosh on Valentine's Day in 1969 when the Pope deleted it from the General Roman Calendar, but it didn't take and the tradition lives on.
In my family 2/14 has extra significance as it is my paternal grandfather's birthday. My mom always loved the fact that a man with the last name "Love" was born on Valentine's Day. I am the third Frederick J. Love after my dad (Jr.) and my grandfather (Sr.); that's us in the picture above. When my dad decided to go and marry a Protestant, both the "III" moniker and my Catholic upbringing were iron clad non-negotiable.
We called my grandfather "Papa" and he was an amazing guy. When I was little he and Nana lived on the top floor of a double-decker on Ackers Ave in Brookline. I remember running up those back stairs so fast I had to put my hands down on the step in front of me to keep from falling. At the top, Papa always greeted my sister and I with the same exclamation of surprise: "FOR THE LOVE OF PETE!!!" (as if he had NO IDEA we were driving up from Brockton that afternoon). It was awesome. In every memory I have of Papa he is smiling, yet I don't think I have one picture of the man where he doesn't look like a member of the Whitey Bulger gang. Even when my mom recreated the picture above several years later, Papa still didn't crack a smile. (Though since it was a meticulous recreation from our array down to our wardrobe, perhaps Papa was just being true to the original.)
Though only a three bedroom apartment (four if you count the finished porch that was my dad's room), Nana & Papa's place seemed filled with mystery. A fancy living room and dining room (only used Christmas & Easter) with antique furniture, oriental rugs and several displays of Hummel figurines that were not to be touched on penalty of swift amputation. There was a cool old basement filled with tons of stuff Papa couldn't get rid of (he had a slight hoarding "issue"), but my favorite was the attic. Accessible by stairs off the back hallway, I was simultaneously scared of/thrilled by the attic. While most of the stuff "down cellar" was clearly junk, the attic had old clothes, furniture, pictures and the best part was: I could touch all of it as much as I wanted to.
As my family was about to leave, Papa always pulled me aside and, on the down low, gave me a sandwich bag full of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. I have no idea how the man generated so much change, we visited a lot, but there it was and I loved it. I'd take the bag of change home, carefully count it out and put it in coin rolls my mom got from the bank. For some reason I never spent any of it and when I was away at Emerson freshman year, my parents unwrapped all the rolls (four or five coffee cans full) looking for rare coins. I can't remember if they found any but afterwards I was finally able to put the money in the bank. I wouldn't be surprised though if there is still an old coffee can full of rolled up change somewhere in my mom's house.
Along with his bags of change, "FOR THE LOVE OF PETE," and lifetime vanity license plate (72272) I also clearly remember the white box that always sat on Papa's kitchen table with "L.S./M.F.T." printed on it. I later learned this stood for "Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco." It's funny, I don't remember seeing him smoke, but that box was a fixture in the Brookline house. Papa eventually quit but those unfiltered Lucky's are a real bitch kitty and he died of lung cancer in 1982. Since my own kids never got to meet their paternal grandfather I consider myself very lucky to have so many great memories of mine. Happy Birthday Papa!
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