Archive for the 'Bands with a white guy with a huge afro' Category

16
Jun
16

Nicholas Frank “Greatest Skips”

Not denying the irresistibility of a title such as “Greatest Skips”—my overwhelming hope was that inside this album cover with six pictures of people getting their picture taken (the inside sleeve is six corresponding pictures of people taking the pictures of the people on the cover, presumably) I would find a dozen well-crafted, personal, heart-wrenching songs performed by Nicholas Frank, perhaps with the help of additional musicians. For a moment, then, when immediately the familiar sound of a skipping record assaulted my ears, I thought PERHAPS this record has a skip right at the beginning, either coincidentally or as a kind of initiation joke, after which you’d move the needle onto the dozen well-crafted songs. But no. It’s a an entire record consisting of a collection of record skips. After looking around for a Nicholas Frank substitute to throw through the wall, for awhile, I relaxed a little and soon found myself enjoying the sound for what it was, as well as thinking about a few things.

I’ve never really thought about it, but the length of a record skip should be exactly the time it takes for the needle to get around the record once, right? And the record is turning at 33 1/3 times per minute, or so we’re led to believe. But when the needle gets down to the inside of the record, where it has less distance to travel to get around the record, shouldn’t it take less time? So how does that work? Why don’t records get progressively higher-pitched as they go along? It’s bad enough I’ll never REALLY understand what’s going on in those grooves, now I’m even confused about the speed. Anyway, it then occurred to me that in that this is a collection of record skips, played in succession, Mr. Frank had to make a decision on just HOW MANY skips (normally, one hears the number of skips it takes for you to realize the record is skipping, pull yourself out of the beanbag chair, spill your beer, and get to the turntable) he was going to allow us to hear before moving on to the next one, as well as the order they are presented. One wonders if the skips are a collection he compiled over a period of time or if he was able to manufacture or re-create record skips at will. And if, upon repeated listenings, I would be able to discovers a narrative or a message, or even a deep, weird secret, or instructions to unearthing a treasure.

I have to admit, I have my own collection of record skips, on a cassette tape that I kept handy for many years, available to pop in the recorder any time a skip randomly happened. I never listen to it, of course, but wouldn’t sell it for a million dollars. I also have a cassette tape I made from Lee Ranaldo’s lock-groove experiment record, “From Here to Infinity.” It would have been better to just buy the record, but cheapie that I am, I illegally home-taped it, but was then met with a decision to make on each track: how long to record the lock-groove? Now I’m thinking, how many people put lock-grooves on the end of their records, throughout history? There must be a list on the internet somewhere. And one more thing, it just occurred to me. What if THIS record gets an ACTUAL skip in it sometime? What exactly would that be like? I mean, besides annoying, would it blow your mind, if even for a few minutes? How does one create a skip in a record… peanut butter or something? But no, I won’t do it, this is not my record. I’m cat-sitting. But I suppose I could pick up my own copy somewhere, and figure out how to make REAL skips. It could be a project for a rainy day.

26
Jun
10

Boston “Don’t Look Back”

“Don’t Look Back” is Boston’s appropriately titled second album, from 1978—I mean appropriately for me, since that was the year I traded in my cap’n’gown for the ball’n’chain. I guess I never really thought I’d enjoy the success of a #1 on the charts album, but I did believe, at that time, that I could pursue a life of partying—which was my course of study at Kokomo Community College. This record went virtually unnoticed by my friends and me, I suppose, seeing it as pretty much a continuation of the first record, which we weren’t much interested in after its initial novelty. We were listening to the Sex Pistols at the time, and these bands seemed like night and day. Only now do I realize they weren’t all that different, at least musically: melodic, driving, hard rock with pop hooks. Of course, the vocals have little in common, though I have to admit, today, June 26, 2010, I’m more in the mood to listen to Brad Delp’s voice than Johnny Rotten’s. That said, lyric-wise is really where the difference lies. I’m maybe listening to Boston lyrics for the first time right now. What’s all this about a “golden rabbit” on the title song? Fortunately, this record contains a sleeve with lyrics, so I’m able to see that what sounds to me like “golden rabbit” is actually: “I finally see the dawn arrivin.'”

Side two really picks things up with the terribly catchy “Feelin’ Satisfied”: “So come on, put your hands together/You know it’s now or never, take a chance on rock’n’roll,” which is pretty insipid, but then followed by: “Come on let us give your mind a ride.” Which preceded, by six years, my groundbreaking ‘zine novella, “The Mind Ride.” The next song, “Party” is also a standout. Like I said, were I to answer the classic job interview question at that time—”Where do you see yourself in ten years?”—I guess my honest answer would have been, “Halfway between the keg and the men’s room.”

This album cover opens up and contains some pretty typical snapshot sized concert portraits of members of the band. The credits state that the record was recorded at “Tom Scholz’ Hideaway Studio” which I think meant his garage or basement, or his bedroom, I don’t know. He certainly had it going on as far as recording a hard rock band. You feel like he could have put anybody on the charts. One really interesting thing is there is a little note that says: “No Synthesizers Used/No Computers Used.” Now as far as the synthesizers they are talking about at the time, those now seem quaint and old-fashioned. But it’s an interesting sentiment for the time. As far as computers, though, what exactly was he talking about? Computers weren’t being used in rock music in 1978, were they? It’s not like he’s talking about Protools. When I think back to 1978, computers were like things that took up whole floors of some laboratory somewhere. Bill Gates was still in diapers. Just what, exactly, does “No Computers” mean? Was it a joke? Could Tom Scholz look forward 30 years and see Boston still playing, with considerably less hair and looser pants, and the opening act is some asshole with a laptop?

The album cover is even better than their first one. It takes me right back to our basement party room, with black lights and root beer incense. It folds out to show the spaceship—which was escaping the exploding Earth on the first album—is now landing on another world (you know that because there are two moons). This spaceship, which is like flying saucer with a dome covered city—and says “Boston” on it, so presumably it contains the city of Boston—is designed after an electric guitar, and it has what looks like a tail, which is the guitar neck. They may or may not be taking along the Red Sox, but there sure as hell will be hard rock. (Oh, and the lyrics on the record sleeve are printed over engineering drawings and diagrams of the spaceship, some of them quite detailed!) This new planet seems to be covered with a forest of nasty looking crystals, but the spaceship has found a grassy clearing in which to land. And if you look closely, off to the side, around the base of the crystals, there appears to be some gnarly shrubbery—but I believe it is, in fact, actually, an endless supply of righteous looking bud.

05
Jun
10

Boston “Boston”

It’s really hard to criticize something like this album–I mean it’s like criticizing The Dictionary–though, when I say that, I’m assuming “the dictionary of the English language,” and if you don’t speak English, the book isn’t of much use.

Listen to the record!

That was an attempted allegory. Note: edit out that first paragraph before posting.

Listen to the record!

Everyone knows the story of how Tom Scholz, MIT grad and scientist, was working for GE developing the Doomsday Machine when, while tinkering in his basement workshop, developed all those compressors and distortion devices that– when built into what are known as “guitar pedals” –have allowed future generations of mindless wankers to pick up an electric guitar for the first time and in fifteen minutes learn how to make noise like a goddamn god. When Andy Warhol said that “fifteen minutes of fame” thing, this is exactly what he was talking about.

Listen to the record!

That “Listen to the record!” business is from the liner notes, and I just love liner notes. It makes me so sad to think about all the young people and their MP3s and how they don’t even have an idea of the concept of liner notes. These liner notes discuss how the guys got together, first called their band “Springfield” and when things weren’t happening, changed the name to “Boston” and the rest is history. There is also a discussion of “technology,” but I’m just listening to the record. The song “More Than A Feeling,” despite being seriously in the top ten of alltime overplayed songs, is surprisingly fresh sounding–I mean considering– with that acoustic part and the hard rock part– I know it should sound more stale than it does– well, maybe it’s just been such a “Long Time” since my stereo needle touched vinyl. The song, “Long Time” incidentally, was used in studies. It was found that people of a certain age group (my age) could pick up a guitar for the first time and play the opening guitar part nearly note for note, particularly guitar store employees.

I’m making fun of this record a little, but I have to admit I’m actually enjoying listening to it, so if you’re a fan, old or new, and you want say “Speen thinks it rocks” go ahead, it won’t bug me too much. Really, it’s not entirely these guys’ fault that some of these guitar flourishes are what many of us will hear as we’re dying, coming out of a coma, having sex, or every time we turn the ignition of a car or open a can of Pepsi. Maybe Scholz DID invent the doomsday machine after all. Look at the cover art closely, if it doesn’t cause flashbacks to commence. It looks like the Earth is exploding and entire cities are being saved by being jetted off into space by dome-topped flying saucers. The one closest to us, of course, contains Boston. One wonders if Kokomo made it.

Lyrically–there are no printed lyrics on this particular sleeve, so I’m trying to make them out. Smokin’ indeed rhymes with tokin’. It’s interesting, with all the millions of times I’ve heard “More Than A Feeling” I never heard the “Mary Ann slipping away” part. Who is this “Mary Ann”? Seeing how this record came out in 1976, you have to figure the lyricist must have been watching endless Gilligan’s Island reruns, and how many people had a crush on that Mary Ann? I know I did, but it’s interesting, once I got to a certain age, I switched over from Mary Ann to Ginger. I really believe that’s a sign of maturity. Ask your friends who they prefer– it’s a good test to separate the men from the boys. I’m trying to remember who the eighth person on that island was… Anyway, you KNOW that The Professor could have had a short wave radio rescue transmission going in about five minutes, but he obviously didn’t want to. Thurston had Lovey and The Skipper had Gilligan (don’t pretend you didn’t know) so who else was there to satisfy the two hot women other than Russell “Magic” Johnson (not his real name) who– well they couldn’t really show it on TV then like they could today– got more ass than a makeshift bamboo outhouse.

I would apologize for that last paragraph, but you’ll never see it. I just started drinking coffee again and I’m getting carried away here. Memo to Speen: DELETE the paragraph about lyrics before posting.

Side two starts out with a really corny, compelling, unoriginal and utterly awesome rocker called “Rock & Roll Band” which is probably about playing in a rock & roll band, but I’m not going to fall back into that listening to the lyrics trap. I wasn’t actually able to get to the end of side two because this particular record, which was found on “the street,” seems to have about a kilo of cocaine encrusted in the later grooves of the second side. I would take the initiative to clean it, but I can’t find a hundred dollar bill.




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