Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me Documentary

Hanspostcard is hosting a movie draft from 12 different genres…this is my musical entry and final pick.

Such a great band but such a frustrating story. Robyn Hitchcock remarked, “Big Star is like a letter that was mailed in 1972 but didn’t arrive until 1985.” That is a great way to explain them. They made three of the best albums of the decade that were not heard until much later. When they were finally discovered they influenced many artists such as The Replacements, REM, Cheap Trick, Matthew Sweet, and more. The last time I checked it was on Netflix…watch this documentary.

When these musicians and critics talk about Big Star…they talk about them like people talk about The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Kinks. In this documentary you have Cheap Trick, REM, Mitch Easter, Robyn Hitchcock, and others talking about the band.

The first album got great reviews…you couldn’t ask for better. When the label called radio stations trying to get them to play it…the stations would say it’s not selling. When someone actually heard the songs on the radio, they couldn’t find the record to buy it. This was basically the same story with all of the albums.

Distribution problems and just bad timing. Stax didn’t do a good job of distribution…they made a deal with Columbia before the second album to distribute the album…problem solved right? Nope, Clive Davis who made the deal was then fired at Columbia. The deal fell through and then Stax disintegrated.

Chris Bell who was key in creating the sound the band had quit after the first album. He came back but then quit again. Chris had depression problems and wanted badly to do something on his own. Alex Chilton continued and finished the second and third album with a new bass player on the third album.

After that, it follows Chris and Alex’s career to the end of both. It also covers Jim Dickinson’s role on the third experimental album. Family members, fans, and rock writers also share their love of Big Star and memories of the band members.

In May of 1973 Ardent Studios where Big Star recorded invited 100 rock writers down to Memphis to hear Big Star live. They all loved Big Star and it went over great…but that wasn’t the band’s problem…it was the business side. What would have happened if they would have signed with a label more suited to them?

Before watching this documentary, a couple of years back I didn’t realize Chris Bell was so instrumental in developing their sound. I knew it wasn’t the Alex Chilton band, but Chris was invaluable and started the ball rolling. All 4 members did contribute writing and singing but Chilton and Bell were the Lennon and McCartney of the group.

It’s a great documentary about a great band that had the talent, but fate wasn’t on their side.

There is the often-used Peter Buck quote that everyone who bought the first Velvet Underground album went out and started a band…the same is true with this band.

My recommendation? Watch it…NOW

Cast

Billy Altman … Self – Writer
Jon Auer … Self
Lester Bangs … Self (archive footage)
Chris Bell … Self (archive footage)
David Bell … Self – Chris Bell’s Brother
Norman Blake … Self
The Box Tops … Themselves (archive footage)
Panther Burns … Themselves (archive footage)
Cheap Trick … Themselves
Stephanie Chernikowski … Self – Photographer
Alex Chilton … Self (archive footage)
Rick Clark … Self – Writer and Musician
Stephen Ira Cohen … Self – U.S. Congressman (archive footage) (as Steve Cohen)
The Cramps … Themselves (archive footage)
John Dando … Self – Band Manager, Ardent Studios 1972-1975
Luther Dickinson … Self
Mary Lindsay Dickinson … Self
Steven Drozd … Self
Van Duren … Self – Musician
Mitch Easter … Self – Musician and Producer
Bruce Eaton … Self (voice) (archive footage)
William Eggleston … Self
Tav Falco … Self
John Fry … Self – Founder, Ardent Studios
John Hampton … Self – Engineer, Ardent Studios
Douglas Hart … Self – Bass, The Jesus and Mary Chain
Robyn Hitchcock … Self
Andy Hummel … Self (archive footage)
Ross Johnson … Self – Writer and Musician
Ira Kaplan … Self
Lenny Kaye … Self – Writer and Musician
John King … Self – Promotions, Ardent Studios 1972-1975
Curt Kirkwood … Self
John Lightman … Self
Carole Manning … Self – Ardent Studios 1972-1975
Mike Mills … Self
The Replacements The Replacements … Themselves (archive footage)
Steve Rhea … Self – Promotions, Ardent Studios 1972-1975
Will Rigby … Self – musician
Richard Rosebrough … Self – Engineer, Ardent Studios 1972-1975
Kliph Scurlock … Self
Tom Sheehan … Self – Photographer
Chris Stamey … Self – Musician and Producer
Big Star … Themselves
Jody Stephens … Self
Sara Stewart … Self – Chris Bell’s Sister
Michael Stipe … Self
Ken Stringfellow … Self
Matthew Sweet … Self
Alexis Taylor … Self
Marge Thrasher … Self – Hostess of Straight Talk (archive footage)
Jon Tiven … Self
Pete Tomlinson … Self – Writer
Jaan Uhelszki … Self – Writer (as Jaan Uhelzski)
Terry Edwards … Conductor, London (uncredited)

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Perfect Skin… 80’s Underground Mondays

Love the sound of this song. It sounds like it could have come out of any decade. The guitar fills are wonderful. It’s a shame they didn’t have success in America but they were played on college radio stations.

Lloyd Cole wrote the lyrics and music to this song. He would write all the lyrics on the album and on a few songs would get some help with the music.

Perfect Skin was off of the album Rattlesnakes which peaked at #13 in the UK and New Zealand in 1984. The song peaked at #26 in the UK. NME included the album in its Top 100 Albums of All Time list, and the title track was later covered by the American singer Tori Amos.

The Welsh band Manic Street Preachers included the album amongst their top ten list.

They were active from 1984 through 1989 and released three albums and all of them made the top twenty in the UK. They had formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1982…they broke up in 1989. Cole embarked on a solo career but the band reformed briefly in 2004 to perform a 20th anniversary mini-tour of the UK.

Lloyd Cole: Perfect Skin’s Louise wasn’t real, though. I’d read about Bob Dylan seducing women by writing songs for them, so I was showing off with words: “She’s got cheekbones like geometry and eyes like sin and she’s sexually enlightened by Cosmopolitan.” When I sing that live now, I go: “Who isn’t?”

Between 1983 and 84, we went from being a wimpy band who sounded like the Style Council to more of a rock band. When I wrote Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken? it made us realise what we could do. I took a Portastudio to my room in Glasgow Golf Club, where my parents worked and lived, and wrote Perfect Skin and Forest Fire. Not one song on Rattlesnakes was more than a year old when it was recorded.

Perfect Skin

I choose my friends only far too well
I’m up on the pavement
They’re all down in the cellar
With their government grants and my IQ
They brought me down to size
Academia blues

Louise is a girl
I know her well
She’s up on the pavement
Yes, she’s a weather girl
And I’m staying up here so I may be undone
She’s inappropriate but then she’s much more fun and

When she smiles my way
My eyes go out in vain
She’s got perfect skin

Shame on you, got no sense of grace
Shame on me
Just in case I might
Come to a conclusion other than that which is absolutely necessary
And that’s perfect skin

Louise is the girl with the perfect skin
She says, “Turn on the light otherwise it can’t be seen”
She’s got cheekbones like geometry and eyes like sin
And she’s sexually enlightened by Cosmopolitan and

When she smiles my way
My eyes go out in vain
For her perfect skin
Yeah, that’s perfect skin

She takes me down to the basement
To look at her slides
Of her family life
Pretty weird at times
At the age of ten she looked like Greta Garbo and I loved her then
But how was she to know that

When she smiles my way
My eyes go out in vain
She’s got perfect skin

Up eight flights of stairs to her basement flat
Pretty confused, huh?
Being shipped around like that
Seems to climb so high
Now we’re down so low
Strikes me the moral of the song
Must be: there never has been one

Keys – I Don’t Wanna Cry…. Power Pop Friday

This fantastic English band was active between 1979 through 1983. The Keys attracted a lot of attention. They had a producer who I would have never guessed. Joe Jackson…I just never thought of him producing a power pop record.

The band included main songwriter and bassist Drew Barfield, guitarists
Steve Tatler and Ben Grove, and former Paul McCartney and Wing’s drummer Geoff Britton.

They were signed to A&M records and released the U.K. their only LP “The Keys Album”. The album drew rave reviews, but unfortunately it didn’t sell very well. Besides the album, the label released six singles. Due to a lack of interest The Keys split in 1983.

I listen to the album and I see why they got great reviews…I just can’t figure why they didn’t sell. I Don’t Wanna Cry was the A side and the B side was a song called Listening In. I have the video below…both songs are good power pop.

David Silvia from Allmusic: One of powerpop cornerstones ever. A hidden classic and a real masterpiece. Pop at it’s best

The Keys – The Keys Album (1981, Vinyl) - Discogs

I Don’t Wanna Cry

Was it really just our last good night
when I saw the light and I know
that you’ve been telling lies
Oh, no, not me, I don’t wanna cry
You could talk about it all night long
but the feeling’s gone and
I don’t need you to tell me why
Oh no, not me, I don’t wanna cry

‘Cos you know, I’ve got you figured out
and you have got, nothing to shout about
if this is love, I don’t really wanna play
I wanna know why you want to stay

I know all about your little plan
find a fool and check up the thing you can
well, it seems is never gonna be that way
I wanna know what you want to stay
ESTRIBILLO

Oh no, not me, I don’t wanna cry
Oh no, not me, I don’t wanna cry
I don’t wanna cry
I don’t wanna cry
I don’t wanna cry
I want to know what you want to stay

Del Lords – How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?

The title was enough for me to take a listen to this band. They combined 60’s garage rock, country, blues, and folk influences to become one of the many 80’s roots rock bands. 

Thanks to Paul for bringing this band up.

The Del Lords were formed in the early ’80s by Scott Kempner of  New York punk group the Dictators. They emerged from the’70s new wave scene…which the band never quite fit. Kempner gathered together  Eric Ambel of Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, drummer Frank Funero (now with Cracker) and bassist Manny Caiati and set out as The Del-Lords.

How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live? is an American folk song originally recorded 1929 in New York City. It was written, composed, and performed by Blind Alfred Reed, accompanying himself on the violin.

The song tells of hard times during the Great Depression. It is considered an early example of a protest song. In 2020, the song was added to the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The song was on their Frontiers album released in 1984.

The Del-Lords lived together, played together, recorded and released records as a band through 1990.  At the urging of the Spanish Promoter Pepe Ugena they reformed the band in the last decade and recorded and released their most recent music in 2013 on the album Elvis Club.

How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?

How can a poor man stand such times and live
How can a poor man stand such times and live
How can a poor man stand
How can a poor man stand
How can a poor man stand such times and live

The doctor comes around with his face all bright
And he swears, in a little while, it’ll be alright
All he gives you is a humbug pill
A dose of dope and a great big bill
How can a poor man stand such times and live

There once was a time when everything was cheap
But the prices nowadays nearly put the man to sleep
When we get out grocery bill
Man I feel like makin’ out our will
How can a poor man stand such times and live

How can a poor man stand such times and live
How can a poor man stand such times and live
I give all I’ve got to give
I get my pay and say, is this it
How can a poor man stand such times and live

Tell you what
This poor boy’s got some big plans of his own
I’m gonna call up a coupla friends on the telephone
Tell ’em, Bring some records and bring some beer
Then we can just hang out over here
How can a poor man stand such times and live

How can a poor man stand such times and live
How can a poor man stand such times and live
How can a poor man stand
How can a poor man stand
How can a poor man stand such times
How can a poor man stand such times
How can a poor man stand such times and live
And live

….

Railroad Jerk – Natalie

I love the opening riff to this song! It sounds like a riff from the old 70’s ZZ Top with a little Stones thrown in…. but a little rawer. I have to thank my blogger friend CB who mentioned this band. 

In 1989 singer and guitarist Marcellus Hall  formed the band in 1989 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with bassist Tony Lee and drummer Jez Aspinall. Within a few months, guitarist Chris Mueller also joined.

I hear a mixture of The Cramps and  The Stones. This was on their 4th album The Third Rail  released in 1996. The band recorded demos for a fifth Railroad Jerk LP which was to be entitled ‘Masterpiecemeal’. This final LP was never released. Dave Varenka and Marcellus Hall went on to form the band White Hassle.

It’s not a lot about this band, not even the song’s lyrics so I’m including an excerpt from AllMusic. 

Railroad Jerk skewer blues, country, rock, and noise into a messy, bohemian post-punk celebration of roots rock. Formed in 1989 by guitarist/vocalist Marcellus Hall and bassist/vocalist Tony Lee in Trenton, NJ, the duo added drummer Jez Aspinall and guitarist Chris Muller by early 1990; the group recorded their self-titled debut for Matador Records in 1990. After its release, Aspinall left the band and was replaced by Steve Cercio; Muller was kicked out of the band and replaced by Alec Stephen. The quartet released their acclaimed second album, Raise the Plow, in 1993; after its release, Cercio left the band and was replaced by Dave Varenka. Railroad Jerk released its third album — its most highly-praised yet — in spring of 1995. Third Rail, the group’s fourth album, also received positive reviews upon its fall 1996 release.

Let’s Active – Every Word Means No…. Power Pop Friday

This is great 1980s college radio power pop. Everything is there you want…the jangle and the jangly hook.

Let’s Active was formed in 1981 by Mitch Easter, a guitarist and songwriter best known as a record producer, with Faye Hunter on bass. Drummer Sara Romweber, then 17 years old, joined to form the original trio two weeks before their first live performance. Their first performance was opening for R.E.M. in Atlanta, Georgia in 1981.

Let’s Active was critically praised but like their peers did not sell a ton a records. This song was on the 1983 EP Afoot and they would go on to release three more LPs in all before breaking up in 1990.

Mitch produced REM on their Chronic Town EP, Murmur, and Reckoning. Easter also produced Marshall Crenshaw, Suzanne Vega, and bunches of indie acts. He also took a trip to Memphis in 1978 with members of the dB’s to meet two members of Big Star.

Romweber quit the band in 1984 after the release of the Afoot EP and their debut full-length, Cypress. Later, she co-founded the group Snatches of Pink and performed with her brother as the Dex Romweber Duo. In 2014, she reunited with Mitch Easter as Let’s Active for a benefit show. She would die of a brain tumor in 2019. Bassist Faye Hunter died in 2013.

Mitch Easter:

“I could not imagine myself singing in a Johnny Winter-style voice about ‘I just wanna make love to you,’ but the new goofball lyrics were something I could pull off,’ “I read an article with Andy Partridge of XTC back then where he was saying at no other time in history would he have been allowed to be the singer in a band. And I felt just like that, you know.

“I had this weird voice, but now maybe I could be allowed to sing without suffering some hopeless comparison to Gregg Allman.’

Every Word Means No

Watching for a sound to lead me to where ever you are
I can’t help it I will always love you

It used to be no words could come between us
Any time was right for secret meetings
It’s different now and when you speak
Every word means no
Every word means no

I’m thinking, of things that never come to life
You’re going through some things so shallow
There’s nothing to fight

It used to be no words could come between us
Any time was right for secret meetings
It’s different now and when you speak and
Every word means no
Every word means no

And it’s just anathema
I haven’t lost my way
I’m looking around in directions
‘Cause all I ever thought about was you
I never noticed anything but you
Predicting, puts me down on shaky ground
I keep on thinking your looking at me
Do you want me around

It used to be no words could come between us
Any time was right for secret meetings
Now and then I forget the rules have changed
You always remind me
That every word means no, every word means no

Scruffy the Cat – My Baby, She’s Alright…. 80’s Underground Mondays

Somewhere in the 80’s out of all the synthesizers, electronic drums, quadraverbs, and that big sheen production…there was a rock roots movement playing out on college radio. Some was a mixture of punk rock, country, British Invasion, and power pop.

Scruffy the Cat was a cowpunk band that was popular on the Boston area, but never sniffed the charts. My Baby, She’s All Right is from 1987 that got some MTV airplay. I do barely remember the song after seeing the video. I want to thank Paul for bringing this one up.

The song was off the album Tiny Days released in 1987 and the album was in the top 5 of college national radio charts.

Charlie Chesterman was in a band in Iowa and they all moved to Boston in 1981. The band he was in then broke up and some moved back to Iowa.  Chesterman stayed on in Boston and eventually helped put together another band called Scruffy the Cat (named for a cat owned by the father of one of the band members). Scruffy the Cat began playing around Boston in 1983 and released its first EP-”High Octane Revival”-on the Relativity label in 1986. They released the LP Tiny Days in 1987, Boom Boom Bingo EP in 1987, and their final album Moons of Jupiter in 1988.

They had several national tours and shared the bill with such acts as The Replacements, Yo La Tengo, and Los Lobos. The band played its final shows in 1990 before disbanding. In 2011, Scruffy The Cat played three reunion shows in the Boston area, with the initial show being arranged as a benefit concert for the cancer-stricken Chesterman. Chesterman died in November 2013.

Their music as been described as “a combination of early Elvis Costello and the Attractions with a touch of Jason & the Scorchers’ tough country punk and the American jangle of the Byrds.” They were together between 1984 through 1990.

My Baby, She’s All Right

She’s a long, tall drink of water
Badder than Bo Diddley’s electric guitar
Badder than anything this whole year
I don’t like bragging but I can’t help myself, well…

Long and lean like a Cadillac
Supercharged like the Batmobile
She drives me into the woods
When she gets behind the wheel

In the desert, in the hottest fire, in the houses and over the seas
In the cities, in the telephone wires
They all talk about what she means to me, ’cause…

My baby, she’s allright
My baby, she’s allright
My baby, she’s allright
My baby…

She’s got that certain something
Man, I hope you know what I’m talking about
If you’ve ever had a lover who was really true
Just walking down the street or when you turn out the lights, ’cause…

My baby, she’s allright
My baby, she’s allright
My baby, she’s allright
My baby…

And when she kisses me, I hear the Drells or is it T. Rex?
I could hang my arm out the window, but around my baby is where I’ll be…

I know you must have heard about her
You know everything they say is true
I suppose you know what she means to me
And if you don’t then what’s the matter with you? well…

Haven’t you been listening
Or did you hear what I just said?
If someone tried to show me something better
I’d have to say I’m not interested, because…

My baby, she’s allright
My baby, she’s allright
My baby, she’s allright
My baby…Yeah, yeah, she’s allright
My baby, she’s allright
My baby, she’s allright
My baby, she’s allright
My baby…Yeah

dB’s – Black and White ….Power Pop Friday

The Db’s were a great unknown power pop band…who would influence many bands but not sale many records. The band members were Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey, Will Rigby, and Gene Holder.

All of the members are all from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but the band was formed in New York City in 1978. They never broke through to the masses but they were heard on college radio in the 80s. 

“Black and White,” is the leadoff track to The dB’s debut album Stands for Decibels, and it is pure power pop. The dB’s were signed to the U.K. label Albion, which had trouble licensing the record for American distribution…. and subsequently went un-promoted in radio and only received sporadic play from college radio stations.

The Stands for Decibels album was ranked at number 76 on Pitchforks list of the 100 best albums of the 1980s. The dB’s would released 6 albums in all. The last album was released in 2012 when the members reunited. 

The dB’s broke up in 1988 and Peter Holsapple would go on to be an auxiliary guitarist and keyboardist for REM on the Green tour. He then helped in writing and recording their Out Of Time album. Holsapple subsequently worked with Hootie & the Blowfish as an auxiliary musician.

The dB’s worth checking out. 

Good story on two of the members meeting two Big Star members:

In May of 1978 two members of the dB’s Will Rigby, Peter Holsapple, and future R.E.M producer Mitch Easter made a pilgrimage to Memphis. They were about the only people in America who, while attending high school in the early ’70s, were under the impression that Big Star was a major band.

Their first stop was Danver’s…a restaurant that former Big Star’s Chris Bell worked at and his father owned. They passed a note to the server to talk to Chris and out he came. He was shocked that fans would track him down. It had been 6 years since the Big Star debut album was released.  They were impressed by how nice he was to them.

Bell invited them to join him after work at a ferny bar-café called the Bombay Bicycle Club. Here, while Bell played backgammon with a buddy, the three guys peppered him with questions: What kind of guitar did he play? How did he get those great sounds? 

Bell wondered if the boys were up for maybe checking out a Horslips (local rock band) concert. They instead decided to go over to Sam Phillips Recording Service to visit Alex Chilton, Bell’s former Big Star bandmate, then making his experimental album Like Flies on Sherbert. Bell and Chilton exchanged quiet hellos before Bell went home. 

A few days later Alex Chilton drove Easter and Rigby (Holsapple had already left) around Memphis, showing them the old Sun Studios building (which had a Corvair parked inside it), and taking them up a bluff overlooking the Mississippi. He pulled out a cassette and played a song on a junky little cassette player that took his visitors by surprise.

Chilton played the guys a Chris Bell song. He was raving about it saying it was Chris’s best song and it was the ultimate “Big Star song “…the song was I Am The Cosmos which the public had not heard at this point. 

Chris Bell would die in a car wreck on Decemeber 27, 1978…only 7 months after this happened. 

Chris Stamey on Big Star:“They were my favorite, and as far as I knew they were popular all the way across America. At least for that moment, I forgot about Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.”

Peter Holsapple on meeting Chris Bell and I Am The Cosmos:  “that the person who made all that beautiful music was a right-on kind of guy, too.” “It’s that kind of rife-with-sadness record, but it’s realized with the same imploding beauty that Big Star had. I mean, I Am the Cosmos-it’s just wry enough to make you turn your head and do a double-take, you know, the first sixteen thousand times you listen to it.”

Black and White

I, I never would hurt you
But even if I did you
You never would tell me
Oh, we are finished
As of a long time ago
As of a long time ago
I stop
I don’t enjoy you anymore
Well I guess I just don’t enjoy you anymore
Well I guess it’s all laid out in black and white
You don’t like it at all

Love
Love is the answer
To no question
But thanks for
Oh, the suggestion
I know I don’t care at all
Yeah, I know I don’t know anything at all
But I stop

I don’t enjoy you anymore
Well, I guess I just don’t enjoy you anymore
Well, I guess it’s all laid out in black and white
You don’t like it at all
You don’t like it at all
You don’t like it at all
(In black and white)

Lone Justice – Shelter

Dolly Parton:it makes me so happy that after all of these years they are still Lone Justice with Maria, the greatest girl singer any band could ever have.

If I could have controlled the outcome of the 80s…Maria McKee and Lone Justice would have been huge. She is one of my favorite singers of that decade. I had friends listening to more commercial music…while I was stuck on Maria.

Lone Justice had all the potential in the world, but ended up more of a cautionary tale. They had a charismatic lead singer with Maria McKee, a big time producer in Jimmy Iovine, the backing of a major label and contributions from Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Little Steven, and many more. The problem is none of these people knew what to do with their blend of classic country and punk leaving Lone Justice to wither on the vine. One problem is that Geffen just was not patient enough.

Lone Justice was formed in 1982 and played rockabilly and country music as part of the cowpunk scene.

Shelter peaked at #47 in the Billboard 100 and #26 in the Mainstream Rock Tracks.

In 2014 This Is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983 was released…this was pre-Geffen recordings with old country, traditional, and a few originals. I will be posting something from that collection.

Dolly Parton on Lone Justice and Maria McKee:

I have loved Lone Justice and Maria McKee since they first started out as a group. I remember going to see them at The Music Machine in Los Angeles in 1984. I was so impressed that I told everybody about them and encouraged different management people to manage them. I remember that different management groups and record labels wanted to break the group up and record the band and Maria as separate acts. And I remember hearing that they did not want to separate. No matter what might have gone on in the years between, it makes me so happy that after all of these years they are still Lone Justice with Maria, the greatest girl singer any band could ever have. Maria has such charisma and stage presence. I love her voice and her vocal style as well as the way the plays that big ol’ guitar and how she looks while she is playing it. I especially love this new CD. It has some of my favorite old songs on it and some new favorites that I’ve never heard. Hope you enjoy Lone Justice everybody…I know I will.

Respectfully and musically yours.
Dolly Parton

Shelter

Well all right you gave it all up for a dream
Fate proved unkind
To lock the door and leave no key
You’re unsure
Well baby I’m scared too
When the world crushes you

[Chorus]
Let me be you’re shelter shelter
From the storm outside
Let me be your shelter shelter
From the endless tide

Disillusion has an edge so sharp
It tears at your soul
And leaves a stain upon your heart
I need you to wash mine clean
You’ve felt it too
And you need me

[Chorus]

Your struggle with darkness has left you blind
I’ll light the fire in your eyes

[Chorus]

Your struggle with darkness has left you blind
I’ll light the fire in your eyes

[Chorus]

Let me be your shelter shelter shelter shelter shelter

Bodeans – Only Love

Another band that missed the masses but were a hit on college radio in the 80s.

Only Love was released in 1986. The Bodeans opened up for U2 on their Joshua Tree tour and you would think they would have broken through a little more than they did.

This song was on the album “Outside Looking In” their second album released in 1987.  Their first album “Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams” was released in 1986 and it lead to a full-page profile in Time Magazine. The story, written by  critic Jay Cocks, quotes Llanas as saying, “We were a big fish in a little pond. Now we’re little fish in a big pond. You’re a local band until you get a record contract, then all of a sudden Bruce Springsteen is your competition.”

In 1977 Sophomores Sam Llanas and Kurt Neumann meet in study hall at Waukesha South High School and bond over a shared love of music. The two later end up playing music together. In 1980 At Neumann’s urging, Llanas dropped out of college to pursue music full-time. The group pursues gigs at small bars, clubs, dances and events. Llanas comes up with the name, Da BoDeans.

Llanas and Neumann added drummer Guy Hoffman (Oil Tasters, Confidentials, later the Violent Femmes) and bass player Bob Griffin (The Agents) to fill out their sound in 1983.

Their first album was referred to as cowpunk, rockabilly, roots-rock, revivalist rock, and as a synthesis of the a Rolling Stones and the Everly Brothers. Band member Sammy Lianas made more modest claims for the group, telling Cosmopolitan columnist Michael Segell, “I’d describe us as a band that writes a lot of good songs in different styles and plays most of them pretty well… . Our biggest influence was mid-sixties radio.

The band was still touring as of 2019 but Kurt Neumann is the only original member left.

Only Love

See you walking down the street now every day
Pushing by the people as you make your way
You’re walking proud now, baby
You got your head held high
Want you to know that this whole world
Sees your heart cry
Now see how hard you try
To make yourself believe

It’s only love
It’s only love
It’s only love
It’s only love

Maybe love shouldn’t have to be so hard to take
Shouldn’t have to feel that love
Until your poor heart breaks
So why you tell yourself
You know there’s no one else
Then it ain’t worth the waiting anymore
Don’t you wonder if there’s such a thing

It’s only love
It’s only love
It’s only love
It’s only love

You better look in there
Believe it, even if it’s too hard to
Someone who’s been waiting
Oh, baby, just for you and love
It’s only love

If I could, I’d take you, baby, in my arms
Take away all love’s blame
And all love’s scars
Maybe we could ride away
Till we get so far away
And then I couldn’t see us coming back again
Well show me what you think of it
Show me what you need

It’s only love
It’s only love
It’s only love
It’s only love
It’s only love
It’s only love
It’s only love
It’s only love

REM – Superman …. 80’s Underground Mondays

I was surprised back when I found out that REM didn’t write this song. This song was originally recorded by a late 60’s band from Beaumont, Texas called The Clique, who released it as the B-side of their only Top 40 hit… “Sugar On Sunday.” The song was written by the group’s producer Gary Zekley along with Elliot Bottler, Mitchell Bottler and Brandon Chase.

The Clique didn’t have massive success in the charts but they toured nationally with popular acts, including Tommy James and The Shondells, Grand Funk Railroad, Brooklyn Bridge, and The Dave Clark Five. They had a brief reunion in 2008.

I like the Clique’s version of this also. It has a psychedelic vibe to it which is cool. REM stuck close to the original. Mike Mills the bass player is singing lead on this song because Michael Stipe refused to play it in concert. He told a London crowd in 2008 “We’re definitely not doing that one” after a fan request in 2008.

The scratchy spoken intro is credited to a Japanese pull-string Godzilla doll. Translated loosely from the Japanese, it says, “This is a special news report. Godzilla has been sighted in Tokyo Bay. The attack on it by the Self-Defense Force has been useless. He is heading towards the city. Aaaaaaaaagh….”

The song was on the album Life’s Rich Pageant released in 1986. Superman peaked at #17 in the Mainstream Rock Charts. The album peaked at #21 in the Billboard Album Charts, #39 in Canada, #24 in New Zealand,  and #43 in the UK. 

From Songfacts

This is a slightly stalkerish song about a guy who sees himself as Superman. He believes he can “see right through” the girl (presumably using his X-ray vision) so he knows that she doesn’t really love the guy she’s with. Where it gets a little creepy is when he threatens to find her even if she’s “a million miles away.”

It’s all in good fun though. R.E.M. don’t take it too seriously – Mike Mills sang lead on the track instead of Michael Stipe.

311 covered this song at one of their Halloween shows. Lead singer Nick Hexum dressed up as… you guessed it… Superman. On their DVD Enlarged To Show Detail 2, you can see them practicing it in the bus before the show, and then you see them perform it in concert. 311 site R.E.M. as one of their major influences. Hexum and Doug “S.A.” Martinez have both commented on their love of R.E.M.

 

Superman

I am, I am, I am Superman and I know what’s happening
I am, I am, I am Superman and I can do anything

You don’t really love that guy you make it with now, do you?
I know you don’t love that guy ’cause I can see right through you

I am, I am, I am Superman and I know what’s happening
I am, I am, I am Superman and I can do anything

If you go a million miles away I’ll track you down, girl
Trust me when I say I know the pathway to your heart

If you go a million miles away I’ll track you down, girl
Trust me when I say I know the pathway to your heart

I am, I am Superman and I know what’s happening
I am, I am, I am Superman and I can do anything

I am, I am, I am Superman and I know what’s happening
I am, I am, I am Superman and I can do anything

Camper Van Beethoven – Take the Skinheads Bowling…. 80’s Underground Sunday

I am posting a bonus version of 80’s Underground Mondays on a Sunday. I hope you enjoy this one.

Back in the late eighties I was working while going to college. A co-worker of mine kept playing this song and it drove me up the wall. My first reaction was to ask…”what the hell is this and why are you playing it?” By the end of the week I wanted a copy of it so she taped it and gave it to me on cassette. This song was heavily played on college radio in the late 80s.

In the song it sounds like he is  making fun of skinheads or poking fun at them. The song in itself doesn’t make much sense but it sure is catchy.

From allmusic…

They described themselves as “surrealist absurdist folk,” the group started in the summer of 1983 when David Lowery and friend Victor Krummenacher (bass) started playing music together around Riverside and Redlands, California.  Chris Pedersen (drums) and Chris Molla (guitar) to join the the band… Greg Lisher (guitar) and Jonathan Segel (violins, keyboards, mandolin) were added in 1985.

Their songs were built on acoustic and electric, traditional and punk influences. The band released their 1985 debut, Telephone Free Landslide Victory, on their own Pitch-A-Tent label… it was soon reissued by Independent Project Records, and thanks in part to the college radio success of this song… it made the Top Ten in the 1986 Village Voice Pazz and Jop Poll.

The song peaked at #8 in the UK Indie Charts. The band were mystified that the song became a college radio hit. They would get signed to Virgin Records a little later on.

David Lowery:

I never thought that Take the Skinheads Bowling would become a Hit. If someone had traveled from the future and told me we would have a hit on our first album I would not have picked this song as being the hit. Not in a million years. I would have more likely picked Where the Hell is Bill.

Why? We regarded Take The Skinheads Bowling as just a weird non-sensical song. The lyrics were purposely structured so that it would be devoid of meaning. Each subsequent line would undermine any sort of meaning established by the last line. It was the early 80′s and all our peers were writing songs that were full of meaning. It was our way of rebelling. BTW this is the most important fact about this song. We wanted the words to lack any coherent meaning. There is no story or deeper insight that I can give you about this song.

Lassie and Where the Hell is Bill were silly but there was at least a point to the songs. Plus both songs were pretty jokey. Something that seemed popular at the time.

The band is still together now…sit back and enjoy Take The Skinheads Bowling!

Take The Skinheads Bowling

Every day, I get up and pray to John
And he decreases the number of clocks by exactly one
Everybody’s comin’ home for lunch these days
Last night there were skinheads on my lawn

Take the skinheads bowling
Take them bowling
Take the skinheads bowling
Take them bowling

Some people say that bowling alleys got big lanes
Some people say that bowling alleys all look the same
There’s not a line that goes here that rhymes with anything
I has a dream last night, but I forget what it was

Take the skinheads bowling
Take them bowling
Take the skinheads bowling
Take them bowling

I had a dream last night about you, my friend
I had a dreamI wanted to sleep next to plastic
I had a dreamI wanted to lick your knees
I had a dreamit was about nothing

Take the skinheads bowling
Take them bowling
Take the skinheads bowling
Take them bowling

https://www.allmusic.com/song/take-the-skinheads-bowling-mt0034723980

Blasters – Marie Marie

If I’m feeling a need of some old school driving Rock and Roll/Rockabilly…I look no further than the Blasters. No studio embellishments, no gimmicks, no tricks…just rock and roll.

The Blasters never had mainstream success…but popular radio back in the 80s would have been greatly improved by these guys.

The Blasters are a rock and roll band formed in 1979 in Downey, California, by brothers Phil Alvin (vocals and guitar) and Dave Alvin (guitar), with bass guitarist John Bazz and drummer Bill Bateman.

Marie Marie was released in 1980 on The Blaster’s debut album American Music on the small independent label Rollin’ Rock. It was then re-recorded a year later for The Blaster’s second album The Blasters, released by Slash Records and distributed by Warmer Bros.

American Music (album) - Wikipedia

The artist Shakin Stevens covered the song in 1980 and his version had chart success.  Steven’s version  peaked at #19 in the UK, 28 in Ireland, and #18 in Germany in 1981.

The song was written by Dave Alvin…here he is talking about how he wrote it.

Dave Alvin: “About 30 minutes before we left to go to rehearsal, I sat down at our kitchen table and I just wrote the lyrics – just came to me. I was kind of – I remember being a little kid and we were driving down this road up near the Puente Hills. And there was an old Victorian farmhouse and there was a girl sitting on the porch with a guitar. And for whatever reason, that image stuck with me and so I just wrote that. So in like 20 minutes we had [the song].”

Phil Alvin:  “I thought Joe Turner’s backup band on Atlantic records – I had these 78s – I thought they were the Blues Blasters. That ends up it was Jimmy McCracklin. I just took the ‘Blues’ off and Joe finally told me, that’s Jimmy McCracklin’s name, but you tell ‘im I gave you permission to steal it.”

Marie Marie

Marie Marie
Playing guitar on the back porch
I sit in my car
While she sings so sad
Marie Marie
It’s so lonely in these farmlands
Please come with me
To the bright lights downtown
Marie Marie
I said, “Hey, pretty girl Don’t you understand
I just want to be your loving man”
Marie Marie
The sun is down in the corn fields
The evening is dark
And you sing so sad
Marie Marie

Marie Marie
I got two weeks in back pay
There’s gas in my car
And your folks say I must go
I said, “Hey, pretty girl Don’t you understand
I just want to be your loving man”
Marie Marie
Marie Marie
Playing guitar on the back porch
I leave in my car
While you sing so sad
Marie Marie

Smiths – How Soon Is Now…. 80’s Underground Mondays

I knew a few songs from The Smiths in the 80s but I found out more in the last few years from bloggers like Dave from A Sound Day.  This intro is just plain epic. The Smiths had difficulty playing this song live. Johnny Marr, had troubles recreating the guitar effect in concert. The tremolo is perfect in this song.

Bassist, Andy Rourke, called the song “the bane of The Smiths’ live career.”

The song was released in 1985 and it peaked at #24 in the UK, #39 in New Zealand, an d #36 in the US Dance Chart… The single was re-released in 1992 and it peaked at #16 in the UK. 

This incridble song was the B side to William, It Was Really Nothing. It was on the album Hatful of Hollow. The album was a compilation album released in 1984 and it peaked at #7 in the UK. In 2000, Q magazine placed the album at No. 44 on its list of the “100 Greatest British Albums Ever”.

Guitarist  Johnny Marr has described this song as The Smiths’ “most enduring record.” It is supposedly about their singer’s Morrissey’s crippling shyness. It has since become an anthem for the alienated and socially isolated.

Johnny Marr: “I wanted an introduction that was almost as potent as ‘Layla.’ When it plays in a club or a pub, everyone knows what it is.”

Johnny Marr: “I wanted it to be really, really tense and swampy, all at the same time. Layering the slide part was what gave it the real tension. The tremolo effect came from laying down a regular rhythm part with a capo at the 2nd fret on a Les Paul, then sending that out in to the live room to four Fender Twins. John was controlling the tremolo on two of them and I was controlling the other two, and whenever they went out of sync we just had to stop the track and start all over again. It took an eternity.”

From Songfacts

Marr wrote this song, “William, It Was Really Nothing” and “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” over a productive four-day period in June 1984.

The Smiths installed red lightbulbs in their London studio to create the perfect atmosphere to record this song in.

The oscillating guitar has been compared to the one heard in The Rolling Stones’ cover of Bo Diddley’s song, “I Need You Baby (Mona).” This would not be the last time that Marr would steal a riff from the Stones!

This song was named after a question posed in Marjorie Rosen’s feminist film study, Popcorn Venus – one of Morrissey’s favorite books.

Morrissey lifted the line, “The heir to nothing in particular,” from the 19th century novel, Middlemarch, by George Eliot.

Marr told The Guardian newspaper that the producer, John Porter, misjudged this song’s opening lyric: “I remember when Morrissey first sang, ‘I am the son and the heir…’ John Porter went, ‘Ah great, the elements!’ Morrissey continued, ‘…of a shyness that is criminally vulgar.’ I knew he’d hit the bullseye there and then.”

Unlike many British acts, The Smiths hadn’t made any music videos. By 1985, MTV was very popular in America and a key to promoting songs to a young audience, so Jeff Ayeroff, who was in charge of video promotion at Warner Music, parent to The Smith’s US label Sire, commissioned a video. Video directors weren’t easy to come by at the time unless you had a substantial budget, and Ayeroff only wanted to shell out $5,000. He hired Paula Greif, who had been designing album covers, to make the video, giving her the instruction, “Find some performance footage and put a girl in it.”

Greif did just that, using footage from a show in Leicester shot in 1984 by the band’s live sound engineer, Grant Showbiz. She combined this with Super 8 video she shot of a female model dancing as if she was at the show. The band had no involvement.

Morrissey told Creem magazine that he detested the video. “It had absolutely nothing to do with The Smiths,” he said. “Quite naturally we were swamped with letters from very distressed American friends saying, ‘Why on earth did you make this foul video?’ And of course it must be understood that Sire made that video, and we saw the video and we said to Sire, ‘You can’t possibly release this… this degrading video.’ And they said, ‘Well, maybe you shouldn’t really be on our label.’ It was quite disastrous.”

Morrissey and Marr receive 25% of the royalties for the Soho hit, “Hippychick,” which interpolates this song’s guitar riff.

The band Love Spit Love, which included Psychedelic Furs members Richard and Tim Butler, recorded a new version of this song for the 1996 movie The Craft, which is about a coven of strikingly attractive teenage witches. In 1998, this same cover version was used as the theme song to the TV series Charmed, which is about a coven of strikingly attractive teenage witches.

The song also appears in the movies The Wedding Singer (1998) and Closer (2004).

The Russian duo t.A.T.u. of “All The Things She Said” fame covered this song in 2002. Marr slammed the “silly” cover, though Morrissey called it “magnificent.” Their version was used in the 2008 episode of Gossip Girl, “Pret-a-Poor-J.”

This song featured in a commercial for Pepe Jeans in 1988, also appeared in a 1999 commercial for the Nissan Maxima (without lyrics).

This was the B-side to the “William, It Was Really Nothing” single, which was released in 1984. After British radio picked up on the song, it was released as a standalone single in 1985, when it charted at an underwhelming #24, much to the disappointment of Morrissey, who bemoaned to Creem magazine: “It’s hard to believe that ‘How Soon Is Now’ was not a hit. I thought that was the one.” It was reissued for a third time in 1992, when it charted at #16.

The single artwork was a still of the actor, Sean Barrett, from the 1958 film, Dunkirk. Barrett was praying in the image, but because he also looked like he was holding his crotch, the sleeve was deemed to be offensive and was consequently banned in the US.

How Soon Is Now

I am the son
And the heir
Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir
Of nothing in particular

You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does

I am the son
And the heir
Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir
Of nothing in particular

You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does

There’s a club if you’d like to go
You could meet somebody who really loves you
So you go and you stand on your own
And you leave on your own
And you go home and you cry
And you want to die

When you say it’s gonna happen “now”
When exactly do you mean?
See I’ve already waited too long
And all my hope is gone

You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does

Jason and The Scorchers – White Lies

In the mid eighties I had a friend who were into Jason and the Scorchers so I gave them a listen. They were big on college radio and they had many ties with Nashville and played here quite often.

I first heard them do a live version of “The Race Is On”…the old George Jones song and it won me over. They were really a big deal in the southeast in the middle eighties and should have spread more. Their music seemed to have a kinship to the Georgia Satellites but they were a little more country. They did have some MTV play with this song and  Golden Ball and Chain.

The band was formed in 1981. They were together through the 80s till the drummer Perry Baggs was diagnosed with diabetes and could not finish a 1990 tour. They have regrouped since then off and on and altogether have released 15 albums with the last one being in 2010. In 2012 Perry Baggs passed away because of diabetes.

They played a mixture between country and rock and fell into the cracks. They seemed too rock for country and too country for rock. Live they were unbeatable.

This song was released in 1985 on the album Lost and Found.

AllMusic’s Mark Deming called Lost & Found “the best record this fine band would ever make.”

Below is the reunited band on the Conan show in 1998…promoting a live album.

White Lies

White lies
Every evening when I walk through the door
I hear the same old lies that I’ve heard before:
You’re going out for the evening, going out with a friend.
Do you really want me to believe that again?
You’re telling white lies, you’re telling white lies.
I can see right through that this disguise.
Can’t you tell I can tell when you’re telling white lies?
Take these chains and set me free,
Release me from this misery.
Now, don’t you waste my time with your alibis
’cause your heart can’t hide what I see in your eyes.
You’re telling white lies, you’re telling white lies.
I can see right through that thin disguise.
Can’t you tell I can tell when you’re telling white lies?
Every evening when I walk through that door
I get the same old lies that I’ve heard before:
You’re going out for the evening, going out with a friend.
Do you really want me to believe that again?
You’re telling white lies, you’re telling whire lies.
I can see right through that thin disguise.
Can’t you tell I can tell when you’re telling white lies?
You’re telling white lies, you’re telling white lies.
I can see right through that thin disguise.
Can’t you tell I can tell when you’re telling white lies?
White lies
White lies
White lies