Monday, January 31, 2011

Deluxe Kinks and Non-Deluxe Left Banke reissues coming…

Early in 2010, a post on Ray Davies’s web site indicated that double-disc editions of The Kinks’ non-Village Green Preservation Society late-‘60s releases were on their way. Well, it’s 2011 and we still haven’t received the deluxe Something Else by the Kinks and Arthur: or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire we were promised. Well, in the meantime we Kultists can busy ourselves with double-disc deluxe editions of The Kinks’ first three albums. This February 28, Sanctuary/Universal in the U.K. will be releasing massive reissues of The Kinks (1964), Kinda Kinks (1965), and The Kink Kontroversy (one of Psychobabble's Ten Greatest albums of 1965) augmented by non-LP singles, demos, and BBC sessions. The Kinks will include both the mono and stereo mixes of the guys’ first LP.

Less momentous in terms of bells and whistles but more so historically considering the number of times The Kinks early catalogue has been reissued is the first appearances of The Left Banke’s two albums on compact disc. New York’s Left Banke are primarily remembered for their smash debut single “Walk Away Renee” (their follow-up, the lovely “Pretty Ballerina”, is not nearly as ubiquitous, although it was a top twenty hit in late ’66). Yet, despite their relative obscure, The Left Banke made elegant, moody baroque pop records that were among the finest of their era. “Desiree”, a stunning fusion of chamber pop and pummeling prog-rock time changes, may be the greatest flop single of 1967. The 1992 compilation There’s Gonna Be a Storm collected everything the group officially released during its brief lifetime, but it jostled the track-listings of their two official albums in favor of a somewhat more pleasing running order. Now Sundazed records is preparing Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina and The Left Banke Too for release in 2011. No word yet on the release date, although Sundazed has made it clear that the albums will not include bonus tracks.

Left Banke fans in the New York area might also want to check out the reunion of original bassist Tom Finn and guitarist George Cameron for a pair of reunion gigs at Joe’s Pub on March 5 and March 6. Check out this link for more details.

Here are the track line-ups and pre-order links for those Kinks reissues:

Kinks: Deluxe Edition (Pre-order here)
Disc 1
1. Beautiful Delilah
2. So Mystifying
3. Just Can’t Go to Sleep
4. Long Tall Shorty
5. I Took My Baby Home
6. I’m a Lover Not a Fighter
7. You Really Got Me
8. Cadillac
9. Bald Headed Woman
10. Revenge
11. Too Much Monkey Business
12. I’ve Been Driving on Bald Mountain
13. Stop Your Sobbing
14. Got Love If You Want It
15. I Believed You (Demo)
16. I’m a Hog for You Baby (Demo)
17. I Don’t Need You Any More
18. Ev’rybody’s Gonna Be Happy (Alternate)
19. Long Tall Sally
20. You Still Want Me
21. You Do Something to Me
22. It’s All Right
23. All Day and All of the Night
24. I Gotta Move
25. Louie Louie
26. I’ve Got That Feeling
27. I Gotta Go Now
28. Things Are Getting Better

Disc 2
1. Beautiful Delilah
2. So Mystifying
3. Just Can’t Go to Sleep
4. Long Tall Shorty
5. I Took My Baby Home
6. I’m a Lover Not a Fighter
7. You Really Got Me
8. Cadillac
9. Bald Headed Woman
10. Revenge
11. Too Much Monkey Business
12. I’ve Been Driving on Bald Mountain
13. Stop Your Sobbing
14. Got Love If You Want It
15. Don’t Ever Let Go
16. I Don’t Need You Anymore (Mono)
17. Bald Headed Woman (U.S. Mono Mix)
18. Too Much Monkey Business (Alternate Take)
19. Got Love If You Want It (Alternate Take)
20. Meet The Kinks (BBC Session)
21. Cadillac (BBC Session)
22. Ray Talks About “You Really Got Me” (BBC Session)
23. You Really Got Me (BBC Session)
24. Little Queenie (BBC Session)
25. I’m a Lover Not a Fighter (BBC Session)
26. All Day and All of the Night (BBC Session)
27. Ray Talks About the USA (BBC Session)
28. I’ve Got That Feeling (BBC Session)

Kinda Kinks (Pre-order here)

Disc 1
1. Look for Me Baby
2. Got My Feet on the Ground
3. Nothin’ in the World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl
4. Naggin’ Woman
5. I Wonder Where My Baby is Tonight
6. Tired of Waiting for You
7. Dancing in the Street
8. Don’t Ever Change
9. Come On Now
10. So Long
11. You Shouldn’t Be Sad
12. Something Better Beginning
Disc 2
1. Ev’rybody’s Gonna Be Happy
2. Who’ll Be the Next in Line
3. Set Me Free
4. I Need You
5. See My Friends
6. Never Met a Girl Like You Before
7. A Well Respected Man
8. Such a Shame
9. Wait Till the Summer Comes Along
10. Don’t You Fret
11. I Go to Sleep (Demo)
12. When I See That Girl of Mine (Demo)
13. Tell Me Now So I’ll Know (Demo)
14. A Little Bit of Sunlight (Demo)
15. There’s a New World Just Opening for Me (Demo)
16. This I Know (Demo)
17. See My Friends (Alternate)
18. Come On Now (Alternate Vocal)
19. You Shouldn’t Be Sad (BBC Session)
20. Tired of Waiting for You (BBC Session)
21. Ev’rybody’s Gonna Be Happy (BBC Session)
22. This Strange Effect (BBC Session)
23. Hide and Seek (BBC Session)

The Kink Kontroversy (Pre-order here)
Disc 1
1. Milk Cow Blues
2. Ring the Bells
3. Gotta Get the First Plane Home
4. When I See That Girl of Mine
5. I Am Free
6. Till the End of the Day
7. The World Keeps Going Round
8. I’m on an Island
9. Where Have All the Good Times Gone
10. It’s Too Late
11. What’s in Store for Me
12. You Can’t Win
Disc 2
1. Dedicated Follower of Fashion
2. Sittin’ on My Sofa
3. I’m Not Like Everybody Else
4. Mr. Reporter (Outtake)
5. Dedicated Follower of Fashion (Alternate Stereo Take)
6. Time Will Tell (Outtake)
7. And I Will Love You
8. I’m Not Like Everybody Else (Alternate Vocal)
9. All Night Stand (Demo)
10. Milk Cow Blues (BBC Session)
11. Ray Talks About Songwriting (BBC Session)
12. Never Met a Girl Like You Before (BBC Session)
13. Wonder Where My Baby is Tonight (BBC Session)
14. Pete Talks About Records (BBC Session)
15. Till the End of the Day (BBC Session)
16. A Well Respected Man (BBC Session)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Parachute-Full of New Pretty Things Releases

The Who may be the group most associated with the unwieldy Rock Opera concept, but the band that conjured up the greatest fusion of Wagnerian yarn spinning and electricity was The Pretty Things when they set S.F. Sorrow loose in 1968. Forty something years later, fans of Britain’s finest cult heroes are being treated to a glut of some very pretty new releases.

Last September, the artist-run site Burning very quietly slipped out gorgeous deluxe editions of The Pretty’s two greatest works: Sorrow and the follow-up concept album Parachute (Psychobabble’s pick for the second greatest album of 1970). Packaged in rigid digibook packages, each album features new liner notes and artwork. S.F. Sorrow includes the DVD of The Pretty’s absolutely essential 1998 live rendition of the album from Abbey Road studios, featuring narration by Arthur Brown. The Parachute disc is distinguished by a clutch of are acoustic performances.

Here are the full specs:

S.F. Sorrow (original album with bonus tracks)
1. SF Sorrow Is Born
2. Braclets Of Fingers
3. She Says Good Morning
4. Private Sorrow (A Phase In The Life Of SF Sorrow)
5. Balloon Burning (A Phase In The Life Of SF Sorrow)
6. Death
7. Baron Saturday
8. The Journey
9. I See You
10. Well Of Destiny
11. Trust
12. Old Man Going
13. Loneliest Person

Bonus tracks.

14. Defecting Grey
15. Mr. Evasion
16. Talkin’ About The Good Times
17. Walking Through My Dreams
18. Private Sorrow (Single Version)
19. Balloon Burning (Single Version)
20. Defecting Grey (5.10 Original Acetate Recording)

Disc 2 - DVD - Live At Abbey Road
1. S.F. Sorrow Is Born
2. Bracelets Of Fingers
3. She Says Good Morning
4. Private Sorrow
5. Balloon Burning
6. Death
7. Baron Saturday
8. The Journey
9. I See You
10. Well Of Destiny
11. Trust
12. Old Man Going
13. Loneliest Person

Extras /Bonus Tracks:

14. Road Runner.
15. Route 66.
16. Meet The Band – Interviews

CD 1
1. Scene One
2. The Good Mr Square
3. She Was Tall, She Was High
4. In The Square
5. The Letter
6. Rain
7. Miss Fay Regrets
8. Cries From The Midnight Circus
9. Grass
10. Sickle Clowns
11. She’s A Lover
12. What’s The Use
13. Parachute

CD 2 - Singles, b-sides and acoustic versions
1. Blue Serge Blues
2. October 26
3. Cold Stone
4. Stone-Hearted Mama
5. Summertime
6. Circus Mind
7. Scene One
8. In The Square / The Letter / Rain
9. Cries From The Midnight Circus
10. Grass
11. Sickle Clowns
12. She's A Lover
13. What's The Use

But that’s not all, pretty things. Reelin’ in the Years Productions is preparing further Pretty Madness with the next installment of its fine British Invasion DVD series with Pretty Things: Midnight to Six 1965-1970. The disc will include 27 performances, as well as new interviews with Phil May, Dick Taylor, Wally Waller, John Stax, Skip Alan, and John Povey. No word yet on the release date, but the film recently screened in Carlsbad, California. Stay tuned…

Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: 'Waxwork'

Woo hoo! A sextet of 30-year-old high school students accepts curator David Warner’s invitation to his wax museum. They each end up getting sucked through the various exhibits into other dimensions where they must face off against a werewolf, Dracula, zombies, the mummy, and the Marquis de Sade.

Directed by Anthony Hickox, the son of Theatre of Blood-director Douglas Hickox, Waxwork (1988) is a gushing mash note to the golden age of monster movies. Part Universal Monster homage, part old dark house mystery, part Amicus portmanteau, part teens-get-systematically-slaughtered flick, Waxwork chomps off more than it can chew, but it’s still a highly enjoyable trot through some 70 years of horror clichés. Too bad it was made in the ‘80s when camp was at its most self-consciously ham-handed and B-movie aesthetics were overly dictated by music videos; there’s no shortage of crayola lighting and shitty synthesizer music here, kids. The tone is all over the place, with the tongue-in-cheek wraparound story clashing with the weirdly serious parallel-dimension monster episodes (the best being a way-too-brief black and white homage to Night of the Living Dead).

Still there are a few top-notch visual jokes, as when one of Dracula’s brides gets impaled on a wine rack and a bunch of champagne bottles froth over through her torso like gushing blood. The bad dialogue is fun but rarely funny, the best lines coming during the spectacular, climactic monster mash when Warner brings all of his exhibits to life to dispatch the survivors, and Patrick Macnee leads a horde of garden tool-wielding villagers against them. The cast is a dizzying parade of cult character actors: Warner (Time After Time), Macnee as a wheelchair-bound Van Helsing (a sly reference to Mother from the Tara King-era of “The Avengers” perhaps?), Zach Galligan (Gremlins) as the rich kid, Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl) as the good girl, Michelle Johnson (Blame It on Rio) as the bad girl, Dana Ashbrook (“Twin Peaks”) as the doofus, and John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark) as the werewolf, which looks like it was sloppily recycled from special effects leftover from An American Werewolf in London. Shambling as it may be, Waxwork is a thoroughly original use of totally unoriginal material and a much better use of your time than anything starring a homicidal hockey goalie.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bobcat Goldthwait working on Kinks musical

In an interview posted on Den of Geek yesterday, comedian/filmmaker/screechy guy Bobcat Goldthwait mentioned that he is developing a film with Kaptain Kink Ray Davies.

Goldthwait and Davies: Together at last.

Here's the full quote, with all due credit to interviewer Ryan Lambie:

Lambie: Sleeping Dogs was about bestiality, at least in part, while World's Greatest Dad is about autoeroticism. Do you deliberately choose premises that are difficult to market?

Goldthwait: [Laughs] Yeah! I have a fisting movie coming up next. I don't mean to. You'd think I was some kind of pervert. But I'm branching out. I have a film in development with Ray Davies of the Kinks. There'll be no bestiality in that.

No bestiality? Dang.

A bit of further poking around the Internet led me to this much lengthier discussion of the project from way back in July on the KCRW website. Apparently the film is going to be a musical based on The Kinks' 1976 LP Schoolboys in Disgrace. Davies will be producing and Goldthwait directing. The album is to be rerecorded by the film's cast. The target audience for the film? "[A]ll the kids who fucking hate High School Musical," Goldthwait said.

This film will not be the first time Goldthwait has worked with a rock legend. In this video, he worked with three:


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

80th Anniversary Screenings of 'Dracula' and 'Frankenstein' in Pomona, California

1931 was the most important year in the history of horror cinema, setting loose the definitive appearances of the three major monster archetypes: the vampire in Tod Browning's Dracula, the creation monster in James Whale's Frankenstein, and the transformation monster in Rouben Mamoulian's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 80 years later, The Pomona Fox Theater in Pomona, California, is paying tribute to two of these films on February 20 with a double-feature of Dracula (3 PM) and Frankenstein (4:45PM). A discussion panel will follow. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children, presumably because they don't take up as much room.

Be sure to keep tuning in to Psychobabble for 80th Anniversary Monster Mania throughout 2011. Guranateed to me monstery and maniacal in equal proportion...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Damn Fine News Day: Specs on the "Twin Peaks" art show; 'Blue Velvet'Blu-Ray to include deleted scenes!

Some news gleaned via the great David Lynch website today. Firstly, the site provides some details about the Twin Peaks art exhibition opening next month in L.A., a recent Psychobabble news item. In the Trees: TWIN PEAKS 20th Anniversary Art Exhibition will not only feature work by a bevy of excellent artists, such as Paul Chatem and Jessica Joslin, but it will also include pieces by “Peaks” stars Grace Zabriskie (Sarah Palmer), a kaleidoscopic collage artist, photographer Richard Beymer (Ben Horne), and multi-media genius/“Twin Peaks” co-creator (not to mention Gordon Cole) David Lynch!

Paul Chatem's "A Damn Fine Cup of Coffee"

Here are those details again:

OPENING RECEPTION: Saturday, February 12, 2011
TIME: 8:00PM to 11:00PM
ON VIEW: Sunday, February 13, 2011
Exhibition is open to the public
PLACE: Clifton’s Brookdale
648 South Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90014
213.627.1673 for more info

Secondly, during an interview on the Morning Becomes Eclectic radio show earlier this week, Lynch discussed the upcoming Blu-Ray release of his 1986 noir masterwork Blue Velvet, revealing that the disc will include deleted scenes long believed to have been lost! The Blue Velvet DVD currently in circulation includes production stills of these scenes, but the actual footage had been missing for decades until being discovered in Seattle recently. The disc is slotted for release this year. No word yet on whether it will also be re-released on standard DVD for those of us who have not made the leap to Blu-Ray. Stay tuned…

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tales from the Psychobabble Search Engine Terms: the worst monkees song

Have you ever wondered what search engine terms lead the dedicated few to accessing Psychobabble? Me neither! However, some of these terms are so oddly intriguing, so intriguingly odd, that I’ve been exploring them in a new feature called Tales from the Psychobabble Search Engine Terms!

the worst monkees song

Date Searched
January 14, 2011

Possible Purpose

I’d bet my chest hair that the searcher of the term “the worst monkees song” already had a pretty good idea of what he or she believes to be the worst Monkees song. Such a query can only spew forth opinions, so I’m guessing that this person was really looking for justification of his/her opinion about the crappiest Monkees track. I’ve done this myself on occasion. Every time I see the “Post-Modern Prometheus” episode of “The X-Files” I’m compelled to search for “worst X-Files Postmodern Prometheus” to find out if anyone else out in Internet Land shares my opinion that this turd, which is often ranked as one of the series’ best, is in fact, its worst. Why? A little justification; a little hope that I’m not the sole rational “X-Files” viewer who recognizes that a lighthearted romp about a Cher-loving mutant rape monster is unwatchable dreck.

Boy oh boy, does this ever suck.

Back on topic, let’s take a look at what our Google search for “the worst monkees song” reveals. Well, firstly there are refreshingly few results when one plugs in this term surrounded by quotation marks. Nice. I was expecting a slew of posts by bitter hippies answering this question with “all of them.” The once-reviled Monkees have undergone fairly serious reevaluation over the past twenty or so years, and most pundits no longer cling to the erroneous assertion that The Monkees never wrote their songs, never exhibited a lick of talent, and never “played their own instruments” (I believe Peter Tork once responded to this age-old bellyache with the witty retort—and I’m paraphrasing here—“No, we don’t play our own instruments. We borrowed them”). Monkees fans no longer have to hide their copies of Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones, LTD. when their snobby buddies visit.
No problems here.

Of course, this does not mean that The Monkees pooped nothing but pearls. A fair number of their songs were pretty lousy and fully support the common gripe that they made low-grade pap for pre-teens. I’m happy to report that two of our Google Search results do, indeed, accurately identify The Monkees’ worst song. The first does not, although it comes pretty close. A customer review on the itunes page for the boys’ penultimate record, The Monkees Present , calls out “Ladies Aid Society” as the worst Monkees song. Close, friend, close! Culled from sessions for More of the Monkees, this piece of bubblegum trash nearly sinks an album of relatively sophisticated music. Late in their career, the guys fully developed and honed their musical personalities: Mike Nesmith, with his assertive country-rock, Micky Dolenz, with his affinity for lounge jazz and avant weirdness, and even Davy Jones, whose adult-contemporary pop confections were finally truly fit for adult consumption. Sadly, none of these musical directions resembled The Monkees’ sound from when they were actually selling records, so The Powers That Be at Colgems records performed an archival dig that resulted in the two weakest songs tacked onto Present: the pointless “Valleri”-retread “Looking for the Good Times” and the truly awful “Ladies Aid Society”, as flaccid a protest against officious moralizers as you’re likely to hear.

The other search result that doesn’t quite answer the query correctly identifies a track called “Moving in with Rico” from the 1987 reunion record Pool It! I don’t doubt that this track is terrible, but I can't say for sure because I’ve never tortured myself by listening to Pool It!. I will, however, suggest that choosing a track from an album made 20 years after a band’s heyday—and one made in the eighties, no less—is like shooting ducks in your bathtub.

Revelation: there might be some bad music on this record!

Fortunately, commentators in the final two search results get it right. According to one Darren Andrews of Pandora’s More of the Monkees page and “sunshine eyes” of (brace yourself, seekers of Monkees credibility) The Partridge Family Bulletin Board, the worst of the worst is “The Day We Fall in Love”.

Following a guitar lick that cops the intro of The Stones’ “Tell Me”, Davy Jones begins reciting all the nightmarishly precious things that will occur on the day he falls in love with you. “There’ll be birds singin’ everywhere and the wind will be blowin’ through your hair, I’ll look in your eyes and wait for the prize, your lips kissing mine…” Careful kissing these lips, Davy, lest yours taste the vomit that just climbed up my esophagus.

The worst Monkees tracks were the ones that most played into the group’s status as teeny bop idols. Yes, sometimes the guys went too far in the opposite direction, indulging in bizarre, very teen-unfriendly experiments that were, in all honesty, kind of bad. But I’d still much rather listen to Micky sing the praises of his cat and lament his fame in keening falsetto on “Shorty Blackwell” or Mike caterwaul over a turgid pipe organ on “Writing Wrongs” than hear about how Davy’s gonna look in my eyes and wait for my prize. Regardless of its awfulness, there’s no mystery regarding why recently departed music director Don Kirshner selected this composition by Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell (who wrote the genuinely wonderful “A Lover’s Concerto” for The Toys, as well as The Monkees’ very good “I’ll Be Back Up On My Feet”) for The Monkees’ second album. The idea of Davy Jones, that ultimate idol of the sexually latent set, reciting a litany of vapid romantic declarations in the first person to his legions of little fans must have ignited Tex Avery-style dollar signs in Kirshner’s eyes. Chances are the guy who chose cartoon characters for his next protégés after The Monkees fired him wasn’t going to recognize the cynical horridness of “The Day We Fall In Love”.

Don Kirshner sez: "Well, at least these guys can’t sack me."

File this mystery under : solved

Don Kirshner: 1934-2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review: Kristin Hersh's 'Rat Girl'

Between the springs of 1985 and ’86, Kristin Hersh was hit by a car, infected with an influx of incomparably off-kilter songs, lived as a squatter, befriended a former Hollywood star turned college student, diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, cut her first album with Throwing Muses, and became pregnant with her first child. Anyone swept up in such a dizzying draft of events during such a brief period of time—especially when that person is barely out of her teens—is right to think she might have an interesting story to tell. How capable she is of telling that story well is key. That Hersh based her memoir covering this topsy-turvy year, Rat Girl, on the diary she kept at the time might raise a big red flag that we’re in for an insular, possibly self-pitying ride. That Hersh is known for writing elliptical, poetic, angular songs, and not for composing lucid prose, might raise another.

Rat Girl burns those flags. This is a beautifully written, deeply insightful rummage through a year that might have crippled someone without Hersh’s good humor. Ironically, she seems most disturbed by the songs that suddenly begin pouring into her aggressively and constantly. Unsure if the songs are a curse or gift, the fruits of a creative mind or symptoms of mental illness, she can only collect them as they intrude. Hersh’s description of the songwriting process is the most accurate I’ve read, although “process” might be the wrong word. The way songs arrive—and, I assume, continue to arrive— is more like getting clobbered by a generous, if obnoxious, phantom. Equally fascinating, she illustrates numerous passages with her lyrics, which both emphasizes the importance of these moments and brilliantly illuminates Hersh’s famously enigmatic songs. Suddenly, the meanings behind such seemingly willfully obscure lines as “I have a fish nailed to a cross on my apartment wall” and “that looks like a carnival wig and two shiners” materialize.

Rat Girl also pulses with a cast of fantastic characters: Hersh’s geeky yet refreshingly self-possessed band mates, the sweet junkies she befriends, 4-AD’s eccentric founder Ivo Watts Russell (who calls Hersh daily to ask if he can help The Muses with anything and remind her that he doesn’t sign American acts. Until he does), restless producer Gil Norton, and especially, Betty Hutton. After Hersh’s hippy dad (another memorable character!) introduces his daughter to the singer, comedian, and star of The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek and The Greatest Show on Earth at Salve Regina University, they become fast and unlikely friends. Hersh’s recollections about Hutton towing her priest along to Muses shows and imparting show-biz advice she learned from Al Jolson to the mad-eyed, flailing singer are hilarious. The Jiminy Cricket guidance Hutton carefully portions out to Hersh provides the most moving moments in a book rich in humanity, humor, and honesty.

Plus, Hersh begins Rat Girl with quotes from Dostoyevsky and Micky Dolenz. Extra points for that.

Get Rat Girl at here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tales from the Psychobabble Search Engine Terms: the munsters and petetownshend

Have you ever wondered what search engine terms lead the dedicated few to accessing Psychobabble? Me neither! However, some of these terms are so oddly intriguing, so intriguingly odd, that I’ve decided to explore them in a new feature called Tales from the Psychobabble Search Engine Terms!

the munsters and pete townshend

Date Searched
January 11, 2011

Possible Purpose
This bizarro search seems to be a perfect spot to launch this feature since it incorporates both sides of Psychobabble’s schizoid persona: the retro horror of America’s fave family of freaks, The Munsters, and the retro rock appeal of The Who’s resident arm swinging, axe smashing, rock opera writing, intellectual thug, Pete Townshend.

Our quest to uncover why anyone would enter these five words together in a search engine begins with, appropriately enough, entering these five words into a search engine. As well-versed as I am in Pete Townshend and monster-TV lore, I cannot readily conjure a connection between them aside from them both being products of the 1960s.

So, what does our Google search reveal? The first item, fascinatingly enough, leads us to an overview of Bob Mould performances from the early ‘90s in which the former Hüsker Dü frontman briefly teased the “Munsters” theme song. At a later date on his solo acoustic tour, Mould was reportedly being stalked by his idol, Pete Townshend. Did the two men meet? This page does not reveal. But on a slightly related note, I saw Mould’s band Sugar at NYC’s Roseland in 1994, but left before the group played The Who’s “Armenia City in the Sky” (not written by Townshend, by the way) because I was really only there to see the opening acts, Velocity Girl and Magnapop. I’ve always slightly regretted missing that performance, though, because I gather it was my one and only chance to see a band play the opening cut from my favorite Who album, Sell Out. Alas, this live recording will have to suffice:

See how many interesting things we’ve already learned in this new feature, faithful reader? See how it isn’t a tremendous waste of your and my time? Yes! But we are not finished yet, for “the munsters and pete Townshend” has more mysteries to unveil. Let us carry on…

The next item in our google search leads us to an interview with Alice Cooper from late 2009 in which The Coop praises Rob Zombie for having as much reverence for Bela Lugosi as he has for “The Munsters”. Further down the interviewer compares Cooper’s “School’s Out” to Townshend’s “My Generation” as dual teen rock anthems. Hmm.

The Coop sez: "I loves you, Rob Zombie!"

OK, two items in and I’m beginning to suss that there is no significant connection between Pete Townshend and “The Munsters”. So why oh why would someone have conducted such a fruitless search? Here’s my one and only explanation. On March 15, 1966, The Who recorded a performance for the BBC program “Saturday Club”, in which they played a rare Moon/Townshend/Entwistle composition—a one-off instrumental called “You Rang” similar to other Who instrumentals such as “The Ox” and “Sodding About”. The number features Entwistle breaking out his patented “Boris the Spider” growl to intone the title phrase, which of course, is not attributable to any member of the Munster clan, but should be familiar to fans of The Munsters’ rival horror family, as it was the catchphrase of butler Lurch of “The Addams Family”.

“You Rang” was not the only time The Who paid tribute to a popular American television show. Also in 1966, they cut a buzzsaw version of Neal Hefti’s “Batman” theme. 40 years later, Townshend name-dropped the composer behind the themes of such programs as “Hillstreet Blues”, “The A Team”, and “NewsRadio” in “Mike Post Theme”, one of the stand-out tracks on The Who's reunion record, Endless Wire. However, we’ll have to wait until Townshend’s next disc to discover whether or not he will finally sings the praises of Herman, Lily, Grandpa, and the rest of the Munster family.

Mike Post: Unlikely Townshend idol or unlikeliest Townshend idol?

The Verdict
File this mystery under : unsolved

Additional Trivia
Though The Who never appeared on "The Munsters", a notable '60s band did star in the "Far Out Munsters" episode. A year before releasing their classic nugget, "Dirty Water", The Standells performed a goofy number called "Come On and Ringo" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand" on "The Munsters". Here's the "Come On and Ringo" clip from the episode dubbed in Spanish, which is really the only way to watch "The Munsters":

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

'Freaks' at the Landmark Loews in Jersey City

As a Jersey City resident, I like to keep the locals up on notable films showing at our local movie palace, the glorious Landmark Loews, and there's a doozy coming Friday, January 28. As part of its Pre-Code Film Festival, the Loews will be screening Tod Browning's Freaks, the as-disturbing-as-ever cult classic starring real carnival performers with real physical peculiarities. Freaks was controversial upon release because audiences weren't yet sophisticated enough to handle seeing folks such as the microcephalics Elvira and Jenny Lee Snow, limbless Prince Randian, and conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton (who, according to legend, were too much for F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the revered novelist/slumming screenwriter had to excuse himself from the MGM commissary to void his guts). The film remains controversial today mostly because of the depressing climax in which the cast is essentially portrayed as a horde of monsters, albeit monsters with a very valid bone to pick. The epilogue remains one of the most memorable and genuinely shocking scenes of the 1930s.

Freaks will be showing as a double feature with the slightly less horrific She Done Him Wrong, starring Mae West and Cary Grant. The show starts at 8:00.

The Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre
54 Journal Square Jersey City, NJ 07306
(201) 798-6055

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Psychobabble Loves P.P.

Finish snickering at those initials then get hip to the reality that P.P. Arnold is the greatest soul singer you may have never heard. Pat Arnold was opening for The Rolling Stones as an Ikette in the Ike and Tina Turner Review when she struck up a friendship with Mick Jagger. Jealous Ike gave Pat her pink slip, but The Stones’ savvy manager, Andrew “Loog” Oldham, quickly snatched her up… and away from Stones bassist Bill Wyman, who wanted her to sing backup for his protégés Moon’s Train. Oldham gave Pat her new moniker, which was intended to suggest bluesiness, and signed her up to his independent label, Immediate Records.

As P.P. Arnold, she released “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” (co-written by Oldham) in early 1967. A smooth bubblegum soul production that was equal parts Phil Spector and Motown, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” is a standout because of P.P.’s unpolished pipes, which rasp away over the orchestral backing. But the record’s real gem—and the real indicator of the Arnold agenda— was buried on the flip. Written by David Skinner and Andrew Rose of Immediate’s pasty folk duo Twice as Much, “Life Is Nothing” is a moody, acoustic ballad with tasteful strings, more reminiscent of The Beatles than anything Aretha Franklin would have cut. That’s what really set P.P. Arnold apart from her soul peers: she essentially transformed British pop numbers into achingly soulful work outs every time she layered on that cracked rasp. What P.P. Arnold was doing was not dissimilar from the records of her label mates, Small Faces, so when she eventually started recording with them it was a match made in Northern Soul Nirvana. But first she’d work her magic on her signature song: Cat Stevens oft-recorded “The First Cut Is the Deepest”. That she was able to a transform a song that is, let’s face it, pretty corny into a work of flaming rage and hurt that could peel the paint off Rod Stewart’s little red wagon is another of P.P. Arnold’s great gifts. She did the same thing with the even cornier “Angel of the Morning”, a song that more famously got the sap treatment by the likes of Juice Newton, Merilee Rush, and Olivia Newton John. Careening from P.P. Arnold’s throat, “Angel of the Morning” is a masterpiece of mighty assuredness (John Paul Jones’s exquisite baroque-soul arrangement doesn’t hurt either).

P.P. Arnold’s greatest record was written by Small Faces Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane and saddled with the laughably dated title “(If You Think You’re) Groovy”. With Small Faces as her backing, Arnold shreds her vocal cords beyond the call of duty as she lets a cat know that he isn’t nearly as groovy as he thinks he is. The chorus punches in with a Kenny Jones drum fill that detonates like an A-bomb, then Arnold takes over to rant and rave her way to transcendence. Fucking unbelievable.

The first of P.P. Arnold’s LPs, The First Lady of Immediate, is her greatest, a flawless soul pop album bolstered by her first few singles and some exceptional additional material, some of which was composed by the singer. With the smoldering “Though It Hurts Me Badly”, “Treat Me Like a Lady”, and “Am I Still Dreaming”—a track that would have inspired Spiro Agnew to leap off his ass and do the pony—she delivered the record’s purest soul numbers. Arnold’s second album, the more conceptually produced Kafunta, is great as well, although it is slightly lessened by an abundance of overly familiar covers. But though her versions of Jagger and Richards’s “As Tears Go By” and The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and “Yesterday” are inessential, her reading of “God Only Knows” is stunning, and even more so considering that the original features what might be the most beautiful vocal ever captured in a pop recording; the kind of recording that should make all others irrelevant.

An outtake from the Kafunta photo session.

After P.P. Arnold cut her final sides for Immediate in 1969, she appeared in stage musicals, acted in the nighttime soaps "Knot's Landing" and "St. Elsewhere" in the '80s, and performed session work for such artists as Nick Drake, Roger Waters, Ocean Colour Scene, and Oasis.

All the amazing recordings P.P. Arnold made during her brief two-year career with Immediate Records are compiled on First Cut, which you should pick up immediately.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

“In The Trees: TWIN PEAKS 20th Anniversary Art Exhibition and ProductRelease” in L.A.

This site is a bit on the cryptic side (appropriately enough), but I gather there's going to be some sort of "Twin Peaks"-inspired art show at Clifton's Brookdale in Los Angeles, California, beginning February 13, 2011. The day before there will be an opening reception for, I assume, invitees only. Will cherry pie and coffee be served? Will dancing short-of-stature people in red suits be in attendance? Perhaps a supernatural serial killer who fancies denim? I don't live in or near LA, so I'll have to rely on one of you stalwart west coasters for all the details.

The show also promises a "product release". This "product" is also a mystery both wonderful and strange.

Will this statue be on display? Another mystery!

For now, these are all the details I have... thanks to the official “In The Trees: TWIN PEAKS 20th Anniversary Art Exhibition and Product Release” site and the ever indispensable, which made me aware of this show:

OPENING RECEPTION: Saturday, February 12, 2011

TIME: 8:00PM to 11:00PM

ON VIEW: Sunday, February 13, 2011

Exhibition is open to the public

PLACE: Clifton’s Brookdale
648 South Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90014

Monday, January 3, 2011

Farewell, Anne Francis

*spoilers ahead

Anne Francis is probably best known for starring in 1956's Forbidden Planet, one of the first films to take science fiction seriously, and the private eye series "Honey West", but she has long been a Psychobabble favorite for appearing in two of the finest "Twilight Zone" episodes: "The After Hours" and "Jess Belle". "The After Hours" had a strong enough premise that it would probably be regarded as one of the series' best regardless of who starred in it, but it achieves classic status because of Francis's work. She struck a wide arch of emotions as Marcia, a woman initially perturbed then terrified by strange goings on in a shopping mall. Her ultimate realization that she is a mannequin granted a month to live as a human and must now return to modeling mall wares is a moment as heartbreaking as Burgess Meredith shattering his eyeglasses at the climax of "Time Enough at Last".

"Jess Belle" does not sport a script as original or punchy as "The After Hours", but it too is a classic largely for its multidimensional characters (a rarity for "The Twilight Zone", which was so often populated by stereotypes) played with extraordinary skill by a first-rate cast led by Jeanette Nolan, James Best, and Francis as the title witch. Francis was just as effecting as Jess-Belle as she was as Marcia the Mannequin, making this episode one of the few hour-long "Zones" that could stand proudly among the best 30-minute shows. Although it forgoes several of the components we most associate with the series (there's no ninth-inning twist, no parting narration from Rod Serling, no ironic punishments are meted out), "Jess-Belle" is my personal favorite "Zone" largely because of Anne Francis, who plays unrequited love in the episode as convincingly as any other actor I've seen.

Anne Francis may have only starred in two episodes of "The Twilight Zone", but she is the actress most associated with the series because her performances so perfectly reflected the series' humanity, beauty, and poignancy. She died yesterday of complications from pancreatic cancer at the age of 80.

Psychobabble's Twenty One Greatest Albums of 1966

Before 1966 the 45 was Rock & Roll’s defining medium. Aside from notable exceptions courtesy of Dylan and The Beatles, LPs were second-class citizens cobbling together recent hits, stray originals, and a heaping helping of cover versions. By the end of ’65, long players such as Rubber Soul, Highway 61 Revisited, and My Generation had created a don’t-look-back situation. Albums would now be labored over with the same level of care and invention as singles, and a pleasantly surprising number of artists were up to the task of supplying an LP’s worth of strong originals. Some made the transition with less ease, but with ample promise they’d make classics in the near future. So fabulous Rock & Roll albums were plentiful for the first time in 1966, and the year still looks like a landmark one for LPs today. Here are twenty-one of the most fabulous landmarks.

21. Daydream by The Lovin Spoonful
By 1966 most bands had finally slowed down the breakneck release schedules more common in the earlier years of Rock & Roll, sweating over masterpieces such as Pet Sounds and Revolver. The Lovin’ Spoonful arrived to the game a bit late and had to make up for lost time. Consequently, ’66 was their most insanely prolific year. The band put out four LPs during the 12-month period between November of ’65 and November of ’66. Released just a few months after Do You Believe in Magic, Daydream is not quite as uniformly spectacular, but the well-known songs— the good timing title track and , the dreamy “Didn’t Want to Have to Do It”, the astoundingly powerful and astoundingly delicate “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice”, and the fuzzy, funky “Jug Band Music”—are among the group’s best recordings. Less essential perhaps, “There She Is” is still a damn good rocker, “It’s Not True” is a slinky blueprint for the future classic “Nashville Cats”, and Warm baby” shimmers with John Sebastian’s autoharp scrapes. The moving “Butchies Tune” is the album’s greatest hidden gem... at least it was until it was used to wonderful effect on an episode of “Mad Men”.

20. Red Rubber Ball by The Cyrkle

The major beats of The Cyrkle’s career were limited to 1966. That year they toured with The Beatles during the Fabs’ final live performances, released their sole hit singles, and recorded their sole two albums. The second of these, Neon, was not released until 1967, by which time The Cyrkle were basically forgotten. The first, released in ’66, housed the hits while dishing up a wonderfully varied banquet of mid-60s pop styles that bridged the gap between the bubblegum of the Paul Simon-penned “Red Rubber Ball” and the tougher, more psychedelic “Turn Down Day”. Those two hits are the album’s best, particularly “Turn Down Day”, which flaunts superb interplay between the bass guitar and the sitar, and presages summer of love sentiments by half a year. Red Rubber Ball offers plenty of other first-rate tracks in the Eastern (“Cry”), breezy Brit-pop (“Why Can’t You Give Me What I Want”, “Baby You’re Free”), ), garage (“There’s a Fire in the Fireplace”), and moody Mersey ballad (“How Can I Leave Her”) styles that scream the spirit of ‘66. “Big Little Woman”, which bears a truly terrible lyric, and a too cute version of the Rock & Roll standard “Boney Moronie” are the only substandard numbers on a record that sums up the breadth of ‘66 quite nicely.

19. For Certain Because… by The Hollies

Although they’re primarily remembered as a top-notch singles act, The Hollies did manage to put together a few strong albums during their mid-60s salad days. The best of these might be For Certain Because…, which catches the band after they’d developed into strong writers of their own material yet before they started overreaching in vain attempts to compete with their more progressive peers. So The Hollies present an eclectic bag of material well within their abilities, storming into the room with the assaultively cheerful “What’s Wrong With the Way I Live?” before cascading into the trippy waltz “Pay You Back With Interest”. Elsewhere, there are mildly exotic and thoroughly groovy numbers like “Tell Me to My Face” and “Stop, Stop, Stop”, a hit single about a guy who gets so horny in a strip club that he has to be dragged out by security! As is the case with every Hollies album, there is one unbearably corny track (“High Classed”), but the rest of For Certain Because… is among the class of ‘66’s finest pop.

18. The Seeds by The Seeds
They couldn’t claim a string of international hits, but The Seeds were LA garage rock royalty, and sitting on the throne was yowling, howling spaceman Sky Saxon. He and his horde—rippling electric pianist Daryl Hooper, fuzz-faced guitarist Jan Savage, and slamming drummer Rick Andridge—spun out two-chord songs simple as nursery rhymes and monstrous as Grimms’ fairy tales. Their eponymous debut is a work of pure excitement, and though they’ve been accused of recording the same song over-and-over, there’s enough blood running through The Seeds to make it a killer record in the Ramones-vein. In fact, tracks such as the single-minded “Pushin’ Too Hard”, the mesmeric noise “Evil Hoodoo”, and the chanting “No Escape” are as punk as anything The Ramones and their brethren did a decade later. The debut single “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine” contrasts the prevailing speed and stomp with a dreamy pace, but it also has Saxon’s most intense vocal as he erupts into anguished primal screams. I wonder if John Lennon was listening. 

17. Yardbirds (aka: Roger the Engineer) by The Yardbirds
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