Friday, August 15, 2008

Psycotic Pineapple – Where’s the Party

I believe that Greg Turner (Angry Samoans) described Psycotic Pineapple (yes, it was spelled that way) as the Sha Na Na of garage rock bands. And, while I loved this band, I wouldn’t say that was completely inappropriate. These cats knew their stuff, but they weren’t afraid to kid around and make fun of everything while stealing Sonics’ riffs! But just the fact that they knew who the Sonics were at this time made them appealing, but they also knew how to write some damn cool tunes.

The intro to this, their only album, is a truly wild ride in “Hang On For Your Life”, a Farfisa-driven slice of fast, loud and snotty garage punk – a real mix of garage, punk and new wave. A little less frantic, “The Devil Has Work For Idle Hands” (they liked long song titles!) is still more heavily organ-dominated garage with cool lyrics and a memorable melody – and even “spooky” satanic laughter!

The cleverly titled drug-song “I Forgot Who I Forgot Who I Was” follows and is completely silly with almost over-the-top cartoonish singing, though still maintaining hip guitar licks, a catchy melody and a real song structure.

The keyboards leading off “I Wanna Wanna Wanna Wanna Wanna Wanna Wanna Get Rid of You” sounds exactly like a kid’s show – in fact, considering the intro homage to Alvin and the Chipmucks, that might be the show! The band throws in an absurdly over-the-top heavy bridge section before returning to the silly keyboards. But then they add a rockin’ fuzz guitar break! Schizophrenic doesn’t begin to describe these guys!

Heavy almost to the point of Black Sabbath-ism is “The Saw”, which, if it wasn’t quite so goofy, should have been the theme song to the current horror movies of the same name! It turns into a frantic punk rock race to the end of its length of a couple of minutes!

Side one finishes with their ode to “Head Cheese” (maybe influenced by Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s reference to the same delicacy?), which is a piano/vocal joke tune. Funny, but not much of a song, really…

Back to the garage punk-pop as side two opens with “Sabrina” – another celebration of 60’s pop culture and another singalong song. “She’s Boss” is a fun, bubblegum romp – it almost sounds like something the Archies would have done!

I can forgive these guys for their take on “You’re Gonna Miss Me” because at this time it wasn’t one of the world’s most covered songs. It’s now hard to believe that few people even knew this song in 1979! Of course, it was still legendary among critics and music fanatics, but not the general populace. PP actually do a credible version and seem to be reasonably serious – there’s even a cool, feedback drenched guitar solo.

Retaining their goofiness but adding a Balloon Farm-styled fuzz guitar riff and wild solo, “Drop Out” is another hip tune with a cleaner Farfisa break before returning to the screaming fuzz!

The record ends with “I Want Her So Bad”, a great, energetic garage rocker with alternating vocals in the verses and loud, group vocals on the chorus. This could easily have come out of a Pebbles compilation and no one would think twice.

Some people think that these guys were a little over the top, but if you like a sense of humor with your 60’s garage, check ‘em out!

Also, bassist/frontman John Seabury, who created the Pineapple Man character, has a website – check it out!

Creamers - Love, Honor and Obey

One of the best LA punk bands of the 80’s and 90’s was certainly the co-ed Creamers. With close links to the Lazy Cowgirls (members were dating and bassist Lenny and drummer Bob eventually became Cowgirls) this band had a similar sound but with the distinction of a great female vocalist (Leesa), female guitar players – Rosa and Judy (Judy formerly of the Superkools) – and fine original tunes.

Live, they were a treat with Lenny bouncing around like a pinball constantly while the rest of the front line played, sang and writhed with a manic passion. Of course, this record isn’t as crazed as the live shows but is still a fine representation of this terrific group.

Opening with a wave of feedback, the band explodes with “No Big Deal”, which shows exactly what this band is all about – tons of guitar, wailing blasts of short, to the point leads, wildly intense rhythm section and Leesa’s cool vocals. The waste no time to jump right into the punk rock of “Sunday Head” and then the superb “Crackpot”, with the fantastic line “who’s normal? You’re not!” that everyone would sing along with at their shows.

The band covers Johnny Thunders’ “Dead or Alive” as a high-energy punk rock tune and then comes “Roadkill” with the chorus of “in! out! In! Out!” which everyone could chant along with as Leesa would accent the words physically. No, she wasn’t trying to be a “sexy girl” on stage, but wasn’t afraid of the inherent, natural sexuality of real r’n’r.

“I Think I’m Gonna Be Sick” is actually a little more melodic, though never lacking in toughness. I think that “Scarface” is more of an insult to “straights” rather than anyone with any physical deformities, though I’m not sure that I follow all of the lyrics!

Their trademark tune in the early days was certainly “So Hard”, a double entendre that did indeed rock hard and fast, but was still supremely catchy with spot-on accents. Perfect punk rock!

More cool punk in “The Wrong Embrace” and “Rusi Got Bounced” (self-explanatory true story, apparently). “The Loser Bar” is about pick-up bars, and starts unusually slow (for this band), though they alternate between the slow verses and hyper speed choruses before moving into a nice bridge with the line “they’d be surprised to know, we don’t envy them”!

The more serious topic of domestic violence is explored in “Love, Honor and Obey” as Leesa explains that she’s “not gonna end up like you”! Defiant, fierce and terrific punk rock.

The band went through many changes and put out many more records, but this one is always what I think of when I think of the Creamers. Great band and great people!


After relocating from Florida, the Comatones created their own sensation in the LA club scene. Mixing glam, punk and plain old-fashioned r’n’r, the ‘Tones were another fantastic addition to the thriving scene in the late 80’s/early 90’s. The members went on to be involved with groups such as the Flash Express and the Hangmen and singer Giovanni and bassist Divo apparently have a new line up (see their My Space page).

Sleazy, sexy r’n’r was the name of the game for these cats and they looked good, played great and had superb songs. A perfect remedy for the overly slick, pretty-boy pretend rock going on at the Sunset Strip clubs at the time – this was the real thing!

Divo sets the pace for the opening number of their 4 song 12”, “It Don’t Really Matter” and as the band crashes in with perfect riffs and Gio starts in on the groupie he picked up the night before, you know that this was the cure-all for 80’s hair metal crap! Jimmy James was – and is – a guitar hero, coaxing hip licks from his vintage Gibsons. Second guitarist Brian Waters is no slouch either, and the two play together terrifically, though Jimmy tended to dominate the leads.
“Kitchen Gone Blue” is more of the same, great stuff, with sing-along “try try try try try’s” and flat-out power r’n’r! Gio continues to rant against some unnamed female as he sings lines like “get up, shut up, I’m over you” – not exactly feminist manifestos here!

They go for a quieter, moody, minor chord feel in the beginning of “Shit Faced Association” before building into a mass of power chords for the wild choruses. Lot of super guitar playing and cool use of dynamics on this one.

Once again, Divo starts off the drivin’ “Square Balls” – full of washes of wah-wah guitars and more good balance of loud and quiet, though never sacrificing the intensity. Jimmy shines yet again (at least I remember Jimmy doing all of the leads – Brian, I apologize if I have this wrong!) with perfect parts for the tune. These cats were truly underrated.

At the time, any band with style was considered “poseurs” by some, so I think this worked again the Comatones (and some other bands), who were natural rock stars! If you weren’t wearing the hideous long shorts of the time and baggy t-shirts, you tended to be lumped into the horrid Strip Metal scene, no matter what you sounded like. It’s a shame, because these guys coulda - and shoulda - been monsters!

Crowbar Salvation – Kiss the Brain

Led by biker-styled Reverend Marty Nation, Crowbar Salvation was an unlikely group of reprobates that managed to be one of the most rockin’ of the LA late 80’s bands. Propelled by the terrific Herman Senac on drums (who was also in the amazing Blood on the Saddle) they burst onto the scene with a raucous energy and some damn cool songs. The band was very under-recorded, but this mini-LP on Sympathy for the Record Industry gives an idea of just how powerful these cats were.

Opening with their theme song “Salvation” (also covered by Sacred Miracle Cave), they drone their way through this tune of lust and salvation with Marty raving at the end showing just how sexual evangelical preachers really are (“let jesus come on you, let jesus come in you”). A great slab of intense, catchy noise!

This is followed by one of the wildest tunes to come out of the city of angels, “Crash Boom Bamm”! Super catchy guitar riff sets off this high energy blast of unadulterated r’n’r! Walls of nasty sounding guitars play off of each other while creating a truly memorable number. Words can’t describe…

While I’m usually opposed to silly, macho posing, Marty somehow pulled this off in his tongue in cheek (hopefully!) manner as he sings his paens to tools and violence in both “Monkey Wrench” and “Crowbar Blues” – both great biker-punk’n’roll tunes.

More intertwining guitar playing highlights “Misery Loves Company” (“and my company is you”), another powerful, chunky rocker. This mini-LP closes with “Lost Head Ranch”, a heavy, slide-guitar, sleazy, blues-rock number.

This was a helluva rockin’, modern biker/blues-rock’n’punk combo that broke up way too soon. But this record is well worth digging up for a touch of demented, crazed sounds!

Shadows of Knight – Gloria and Back Door Men

Chicago’s 60’s group, the Shadows of Knight hit the big time with their superb, though cleaned-up, version of Van Morrison’s downright nasty tune, “Gloria”. This ubiquitous anthem is now known around the world and most people recognize this band’s take on it.

But, the band formed as a white-boy Chicago blues band. The flip to “Gloria” showcases this with plenty of originality in their terrific “Light Bulb Blues”. Tons of feedback guitar riffing (the Yardbirds were an obvious influence) and an off-time rhythm make a wild 60’s raver!

This debut record shows plenty of the tradition blues influences, though, such as their version of “I Got My Mojo Working”. Yes, these are lily-white white boys playing the blues, but there is something inherently attractive to their almost innocent take of these tunes. Maybe it’s because I was a lily-white Chicago-suburb teenager myself and I could relate to their versions.

But they proved that they could really write great songs when pressed, as is shown in “Dark Side”, a moody, tremeloed-guitar ballad. Jim Sohns gets to show off his fine singing and Warren Rogers take a cool, though short, lead break.

Back to covers of local bluesmen with a terrific version of “Boom Boom” with more riffin’ from Rogers and ravin’ from drummer Tom Schiffour. Side one of the album ended with a clean, though energetic run through of “Let it Rock”. No one would mistake these boys for black men, but they certainly put their hearts and souls into their music!

Credited to Bo Diddley (though I’ve never heard his version), “Oh Yea” steals the chord pattern from “I’m a Man” but the band adds more Yardbirds-styled rave-ups and uses plenty of dynamics – good bass playing from Joe Kelley, as well.

Fuzz guitars rule on the wild “It Always Happens That Way”, one of their most intense sounding tunes, with tons of rude-sounding guitar licks! Their take on “You Can’t Judge a Book” alone sounds like it influenced every 60’s styled r’n’b band from the 80’s – this could easily be mistaken for the Tell Tale Hearts! Super rhythm guitar mania throughout this tune!

They really show just how white they are in “Hootchie Coochie Man” – a fun romp, though hardly convincing. But then, they were – at best – just out of their teens, so you can forgive them! They took their version of “I Just Want to Make Love to You” from the Rolling Stones rollickin’ cover, though they added another rave-up ending, complete with Kelley’s bass solo spots and sheets of feedback. What an ending to the album!

But, if anything, I think their follow up album, Back Door Men, is even better. Still plenty of covers but some excellent originals, as well. Oddly, Kelley and Warren exchanged places for this album – I guess they were both versatile!

This opens with the truly incredible “Bad Little Woman”. This is a cover, though damned if I can remember who did this originally. I do like the Shads version better but that may be because I heard it first or maybe because they concentrate on dynamics a little more. In any case, this is moody as hell, and has an addition of an organ to the mix, but builds up into a shouter of crazed proportions! Fierce fuzz guitars crash and burn, as well – what a wild ride!

They follow this up with the equally wonderful (and original) “Gospel Zone”, a piece of genius white boy r’n’b. An insistent beat, accented by handclaps, augmented by feedback drenched guitars make this a truly unique bit of Bob Diddley-theft! Certainly one of their greatest moments!

There was no way that they could keep up that momentum, but the next song is a cool instrumental titled “The Behemoth”, influenced (to my ears, anyway) by the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High”. Nice, though nowhere near as insane as the first two tunes. A fun showcase for Joe Kelley, though.

The band shows its sensitive side on “Three For Love”, a truly pretty, melodic pop song. This sounds almost like it could have come from pop-meisters, the Buckinghams – not unlikely, as they were another Chicago-based band.

I think that it was practically mandatory for all bands at the time to play “Hey Joe” and the Shads’ show an homage to the Leaves version here, though they add an extended instrumental break to make it their own.

“I’ll Make You Sorry” is a hip slice of r’n’b pop. I believe that The Hawk (who played keyboard on this record and I think later became the bassist) sings “Peepin’ and Hidin’” (“Baby, What You Want Me To Do”), the Jimmy Reed song, and again, sound like white teenagers, but Kelley does play some credible harmonica.

I’m not sure who did this first, but the Monkees also recorded “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day” as a pure pop tune. The Shads make this a harmonica-driven r’n’b jumper! Damn near a whole new song! They follow this with “New York Bullseye”, which is simply a blues jam. Nice enough, though not special.

But “High Blood Pressure” is rockin’ and a real mover and showcases Kelley’s guitar playing again. He’s highlighted once more in the closer, their upbeat take on “Spoonful”.

All in all, plenty of fun, white boy blues and r’n’b in the 60’s garage mold. The Shads were definitely one of my fave 60’s garage bands and these two albums show their versatility. The members went on to various projects and Sohns continued with a new line up and even had a minor hit with the fabulous “Shake”. He is still active today and plays around as the Shadows of Knight.

Mink Deville – Cabretta and Return to Magenta

Coming out of the NY new wave scene and combining 50’s/early 60’s doo-wop with Spanish soul and r’n’b, Mink Deville created a sound that was not new, but was fresh and different in the late 70’s.

Many bands were mining the 60’s at this time, but few, if any, were recreating the street vocal sounds that Mink favored, though he also didn’t shy away from some tough, rockin’ r’n’b when he was in the mood, either!

The debut album, Cabretta, starts with the sultry “Venus of Avenue D”, a slinky, groovin’ number that moves from quiet verses to rough choruses. Excellent opener!

“Little Girl” is pure street soul/doo-wop – this woulda been a hit in the early 60’s! Moving back into rockin’ r’n’b with “One Way Street” the band really cooks and struts their stuff! They quiet down again for “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl”, which reminds me of “Save the Last Dance For Me” in feel. These certainly weren’t wild punks, but they knew how to make some great music!

They turn up the heat for “Gunslinger”, an energetic piece of guitar r’n’r riffery. Returning to pure soul with “Can’t Do Without It”, they bring in a sax for added texture and create a fine, emotional ballad. Continuing with this album’s concept of alternating quiet and rockin’ tunes, the beat jumps a notch for “Cadillac Walk”, though it doesn’t go into flat-out rock – it remains fairly subtle as it gets your toes tapping! This band really knew how to play with dynamics.

Opening with ringing Telecaster chords, “Spanish Stroll” (nice follow up to “Cadillac Walk”) remains reasonably upbeat and you can picture Mink wandering the streets of New York. The “ooh-ooh” backing vocals remind you of the early 60’s yet again, while the Spanish street talk section almost sounds like it was lifted from “West Side Story”!

Another superbly crafted tune is “She’s So Tough” - more dynamic work, good melody, cool guitar playing and an all around original piece of late 70’s r’n’b rock. The album closes with the keyboard ballad “Party Girls”.

Mink could really write some fine tunes and wasn’t afraid to stand out from the punk/new wave scene. This record sounds more like it would be at home with Graham Parker or Southside Johnny than Johnny Thunders or the Ramones. But, as a lover of all 60’s rock, I still find this a terrific outing.

Return to Magenta, the follow up, has a similar sound, which isn’t surprising as it came out shortly after the debut. The opener, “Guardian Angel” could’ve been a lost Phil Spector production – complete with strings – showing once again, that Mink wasn’t afraid to depart from the current crop of bands.

But he also wasn’t afraid to shake it up, as with “Soul Twist”, a fast dance number with an insistent beat and some ultra-cool guitar accents. Back to an almost “Stand By Me” feel is “”A” Train Lady”, another quiet soul ballad. Continuing with the alternating theme, “Rolene” is similar to “Soul Twist” or “One Way Street” – rockin’ and with a catchy guitar lick and chorus.

“Desperate Days” is his foray into ska, which again, was initially a 60’s phenomenon. He does add a more r’n’r chorus and creates a cool tune. Another return to the Brill Building sound (all of this recreated with the help of producer Jack Nitzsche) is “Just Your Friends”, again augmented with strings, this could easily fit into place in a compilation of 60’s Spector-pop.

One of Mink’s most rockin’ numbers off of these two records is undoubtedly “Steady Driving Man”, a bluesy tune full of blustery bravado. Great breaks during which DeVille gets to show off just how growly his voice can get. He moves into more of a New Orleans sound with “Easy Slider”, a honky-tonk piano driven number.

One more ballad with “I Broke That Promise”, another mimic of early 60’s sounds, this time with some flamenco-styled guitar playing. Mink closes the record with the intense “Confidence to Kill” – fierce, guitar driven r’n’b. Nice to end things up on high (energy) note!

Again, don’t expect punk rock from these records, but if you’re into well written, 60’s influenced soul/r’n’b, check out these records!

Monday, August 11, 2008

RIP Isaac Hayes

More than 'Shaft': Hayes was goldmine of influence

With its riveting orchestration, definitive guitar play and signature sensual baritone vocals, Isaac Hayes' theme song for the 1971 movie "Shaft" not only became one of pop music's iconic songs, but also the defining work of Hayes' career.

Yet the "Theme from Shaft," which would earn both Grammys and an Oscar, was just a snippet of the groundbreaking music for which Hayes — who died Sunday at age 65 — was responsible.

He penned soul classics like "Hold On I'm Comin'" for Sam & Dave, helped usher in the era of disco and was a goldmine for countless hip-hop and R&B artists who used his illustrious arrangements as the focal point for their songs decades later.

"Isaac Hayes embodies everything that's soul music," Collin Stanback, an A&R executive at Stax, told The Associated Press on Sunday. "When you think of soul music you think of Isaac Hayes — the expression ... the sound and the creativity that goes along with it."

His influence also extended beyond music. His trademarked bald head, full beard and muscular frame, often adorned with a multitude of gold chains, made him a fashion trendsetter at a time when most of his contemporaries were sporting blowout Afros. He was also a symbol of black pride, and an activist for civil rights.


My review of his greatest hits here.