Sunday, July 31, 2022

Review: 'This Band Has No Past: How Cheap Trick Became Cheap Trick'

When future "Jason Bourne" novelist Eric Van Lustbader began his fanciful liner notes for the first Cheap Trick album with "This band has no past," he was practically issuing a challenge to rock writers. At least that's how it now seems since Brian J. Kramp went to great lengths to prove Van Lustbader wrong in his new book This Band Has No Past: How Cheap Trick Became Cheap Trick. Not only does Cheap Trick--those saviors of old-fashioned rock and ribaldry--have a past, but it's a really involved one. All four original members were already in working bands ten years before Cheap Trick released that debut. Rick Nielsen was playing piano on sessions for The Yardbirds and opening for that group and The Who with his own band The Grim Reapers. With all due tasteless Cheap Trick-style irony, The Grim Reapers were scheduled to open for Otis Redding at a show the headliner could not perform due to his tragic death (The Reapers went on, though). Nielsen and Tom Petersson played in a prog group called Fuse fronted by former Nazz vocalist Thom Mooney. A pre-Robin Zander Cheap Trick opened for and backed Del Shannon, Freddy Boom Boom Cannon, Bo Diddley, and Chuck Berry at a Rock & Roll Revival show. For a band with no past, those guys really worked their asses off before becoming the Cheap Trick we know and love.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Review: 'McCartney I II III'

About halfway through his band's career, Paul McCartney became the most prolific Beatle and the one most fascinated with what the studio could do. As the Beatle with the most multi-instrumental skill, he was also primed to do it alone, and in 1970, he was so ready to get out his first solo album that he and the other guys actually had to work out scheduling conflicts between McCartney and The Beatles' final disc, Let It Be. An uncharacteristically embittered McCartney wouldn't budge, and his record hit the shelves first with all the hype coming to the first proper post-breakup Beatles solo album. 

Many fans were perplexed and most critics were downright indignant when they heard what had caused all the fuss. McCartney was a totally home-made collection of song sketches and jams with the title character as the album's producer, engineer, and sole musician. This probably wasn't what anyone was expecting from the perfectionist behind such thoroughly polished gems as "Yesterday", "Hey Jude", Sgt. Pepper's, and Abbey Road. However, it was an accurate indication of how McCartney would travel his mercurial solo career: following his instincts and his restless desire to create rather than continuing to chase the perfection everyone had always expected from The Beatles. And though there's a lot of junk on McCartney (aside from the tuneful "Hot As Sun", his instrumentals are wastes of space), there are also some lovely tunes in "Junk", "Teddy Boy", and "Maybe I'm Amazed", the one track that sounds like it spent just the right amount of time in the oven.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Review: 'The Wild World of Barney Bubbles'

Along with a scant handful of designers like Roger Dean and Hipgnosis, Barney Bubbles is that rare creator of LP jackets who is something of a household name among serious rock geeks. This is ironic considering that the man born Colin Fulcher was determined to protect his anonymity by working under a series of pseudonyms. Barney Bubbles, a name he devised as the operator of a light show at London's famed UFO club in the sixties, is just the most well known. He also worked as, among others, "Eric Stodge," "Jacuzzi Stallion," "Heeps Willard," and (a-hem) "Big Jobs, LTD." But the mark of any truly memorable designer is a memorable style, and under any name, a Barney Bubbles cover is instantly recognizable. His bold use of color, simple shapes in clever compositions, funny photos, and irresistible modernism informs his most iconic work for Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Nick Lowe, Ian Dury, Carlene Carter, and The Damned. Honestly, the colorfully chaotic sleeve he designed for Music for Pleasure is the main reason to own that record, which is not one of The Damned's best. 

Friday, July 1, 2022

Review: 'TCM: Rock On Film: The Movies That Rocked the Big Screen'

With its electrifying sounds and zanily styled artists, rock and roll was always a natural fit for the big screen, even in the days when no one above sweet little sixteen thought it would last longer than a summer. But here we are in 2022, and you still have movies about Elvis, of all people, playing to pee-wee audiences. The doomsdayers may have declared the rock and roll album dead as long ago as 1999, when Greg Kot penned an article titled "R.I.P. 33 1/3 R.P.M." for the Chicago Tribune, but the rock and roll movie is most definitely still alive and well. 

All written content of is the property of Mike Segretto and may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.