Big Star – Kanga Roo

This album was quite different than the other two Big Star albums. This song has a wonderful melody but it sounds like the world is collapsing around him when he sings it.

This song was on their 3rd album “Third/Sisters Lovers.” By this time the bands founder Chris Bell had been gone since the debut album was released and bassist Andy Hummel quit after their second album Radio City. There were only two original members on the album…Alex Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens. This album sometimes has been looked at as an Alex Chilton solo album…Jody did contribute a song and brought in a string section that was used in other songs.

They used different Memphis musicians on the album. Alex was dating Lesa Aldridge (who would go on to form a punk band calle The Klitz) and she helped with the album also.

Jim Dickinson produced this album and he got close to Chilton and encouraged him to try new things. Alex sometimes cut tracks late at night, then presented them to Jim the following day. After the two had been discussing the producer’s role, Alex showed up with “Like St. Joan,” possibly referencing the martyred Joan of Arc, which morphed into “Kanga Roo.”

Jim jumped into action, adding electric guitar feedback, strings via a Mellotron, and his own amateurish drums—since Jody wasn’t there that day—including a very loud cowbell. Inspired, Alex grabbed a drumstick to use as a bow on his Strat, creating an eerie sound. Effects were added to Alex’s drowsy vocals, which presumably related the story of his and Lesa’s love affair:

Jim Dickinson: “Alex came in one morning and he had this little evil grin on his face,” “He said, ‘Lesa and I cut something last night I want you to hear.’ Okay, so he plays me ‘Like a Kangaroo’ [its second title], which is acoustic twelve-string and vocal on one track [making it difficult to separate the sounds]. I said, ‘Yeah, Alex, what do you hear on that?’ And with the evil grin, he says, ‘Well, why don’t you produce it, Mr. Producer?’” “I first saw you, you had on blue jeans / Your eyes couldn’t hide anything . . . Thought you were a queen, oh so flirty.” Alex later said of the lyrics that he was spewing things out loud, just song after song. . . . The whole process was kind of automatic, free association.” “I think of Alex as a collaborator. He allowed me to collaborate with him.

Kanga Roo

I first saw you
You had on blue jeans
Your eyes couldn’t hide anything
I saw you breathing, oh
I saw you staring out in space

I next saw you
You was at the party
Thought you was a queen
Oh so flirty
I came against

Didn’t say excuse
Knew what I was doing
We looked very fine
‘Cause we were leaving

Like Saint Joan
Doing a cool jerk
Oh, I want you
Like a kanga roo

Tommy Hoehn – Blow Yourself Up… Power Pop Friday

I’ve been reading about the early to mid-seventies Memphis scene and have found out that we missed out on some great power pop that was never heard by the general public. To my readers I have to pass all of this along. I do appreciate of you reading about these more unknown artists…but if one person listens to some of these posts and likes one…it makes it worth it…it also feels good living up to my WP power pop name.

Tommy Hoehn is another in a long line of musicians  who should have been heard but it just didn’t happen. I would have never thought of Memphis as a power pop location but a generation of local musicians were heavily influenced by the Beatles, Who, and the Kinks. They took mid-sixties pop… along with Badfinger and the Raspberries and put a different spin on it.

The most known band from that period from Memphis is Big Star…you won’t hear that sentence a lot. Tommy Hoehn played with Big Star’s Chris Bell and Alex Chilton as well as helping out on Big Star’s 3rd album. “Blow Yourself Up” is full of hooks and his voice is perfect for power pop.

All of these musicians at the time hung out a lot at Ardent Studios. The owner John Fry would let them record and gave many keys to come in when they could and no one took advantage of it for a long time. That is one reason many of these artists sounded really good…they had time to get a sound they wanted.

This song was released in 1977 on Power Play Records, a local Memphis label and it was a regional hit. That same year, Power Play Records released Hoehn’s first solo album Spacebreak, which contained two of the songs Hoehn had recorded with Prix as well as the Blow Yourself Up single.

Blow Yourself Up was featured on Rhino’s D.I.Y.: Come Out and Play: American Power Pop (1975-78) compilation that was released in 1993.

He continued to release albums in the 80s, 90s, and 2000’s. In late 2009, Hoehn began work on a solo album tentatively titled Pi. However, in December 2009, he was diagnosed with cancer, and became too ill to sing lead vocals on the album. He died on June 24, 2010, at the age of 55.

Blow Yourself Up

She lie / in a cool repose / She breathing
Tries to believe I don’t know it
I’m not dull, I show it
She shies away:
Shaken / and I push her just a little
Even enough to fool just her
Ooo I really mussed her
Cutchya’ I’ll blow yourself up

She-vades / Such a crude contempt
I invade
She gets away and I feel it
Then I just can’t hide it
She shies away
Thinkin’ / There’s a full moon, I’m not thinkin’
Stupid as nails she keeps askin’
“Who just opened my door?”
Come in and blow yourself up

Stop! We don’t care!
Step above, I could stare –
In your eyes, for a week
Maybe two
They’re so blue…

She lie! / In a room she made to wonder
Tries to believe in a reason
Frets inside her feelings
Comin’ so close – solo!
And the overcast is breathing
Even the leaves gonna shudder
I see stars and colors
Something to blow yourself up 

Van Duren – Chemical Fire —-Power Pop Friday

Van Duren is a power pop musician in Memphis and was managed by Andrew Loog Oldham. He made his first album called Are You Serious in 1978. He is another power pop rocker from the early seventies in Memphis. He was in a band with Big Star’s Chris Bell and drummer Jody Stephens called The Baker Street Regulars. He auditioned as the 2nd guitar player for Big Star just before the band’s demise.

Chemical Fire is an excellent power pop song. It could have very well been played on late seventies radio. It still sounds fresh today.

His style has been compared to Paul McCartney and Todd Rundgren. Personally I hear Marshall Crenshaw also. Big Star wasn’t noticed until over a decade after they recorded their last album. Van Duren waited 30 years before he was properly found.

His second album Idiot Optimism was recorded in 1979 and because of record company problems its wasn’t released until twenty years later. Memphis power artists could not catch a break. There is a documentary about Van Duren that was released in 2019 and his two first albums were re-released also.

According to a documentary, the record label had Scientology connections, which meant they attempted to convert all the acts on their roster. Duren, already in debt, just wanted to finish his record, which he correctly thought was his one shot at stardom. It flopped, and by the mid-80s, after another near-miss with another band, Good Question, his musical career was as good as over.

He is still known in the Memphis area.

Sorry I could not find the lyrics