The Way Life Used to Be

2493. The Stooges 2494. Stooges: Funhouse 2495. Iggy and the Stooges: Raw Power 2496. Iggy and the Stooges: Metallic K.O. 2497. Stranglers: IV - Rattus Norvegicus 2498. Stranglers: Black and White 2499. Stray Cats: Built for Speed 2500. Billy Strayhorn & His Orchestra: Cue for Saxophone 2501. Barbara Streisand's Greatest Hits 2502. Barbara Streisand: What About Today? 2503. Barbara Streisand: The Broadway Album 2504. Nolan Strong and the Diablos: Fortune of Hits 2505. Sturm Group: Century Ho! 2506. Stylistics: Rockin' Roll Baby 2507. Stylistics: Fabulous 2508. The Best of the Stylistics 2509. Stylistics: Thank You Baby 2510. Stylistics: Greatest Love Hits Mixworthy: "Down on the Street" and "1970," #2494; "Search and Destroy, #2495; "(Get a) Grip (On Yourself)," #2497; "Tank," #2498; "People," #2501; "The Wind" and "Since You're Gone," #2504; "You Make Me Feel Brand New," #2506; "Betcha By Golly, Wow," "Break Up to Make Up," "You Are Everything," and "People Make the World Go Round," #2508. I'm into the home stretch with this lot, with my fifth and last vertical shelf begin- ning at Barbara Streisand. I'll have to double back at the end for compilations and 12-inches, after which I plan to rearrange everything logically by moving all that stuff to the end...There was an early Seinfeld where Jerry and his bombshell Spanish neighbour are flirting, and she says, "Please, Jerry--tell me about these Stooges." She meant the eye-poking ones, but the line crossed my mind as I mulled over what to say about the other Stooges. Not surprisingly, I don't think I've played any of the first three LPs for at least a decade. At least I hope that wouldn't be surprising-- I turn 44 this year. Is there anyone my age who still plays their Stooges records with any regularity? Funhouse was always my favourite, and if you want to hear some- thing purely and unrelentingly chaotic, it has no equal. White Light/White Heat and Album Generic are in the same general vicinity, but both are on the dronier, dirgier end of the spectrum for long stretches; the Stooges are still basically playing a variation on heavy metal, and as such, there's never any mistaking it for trance- out music--they just pound and flail away for the duration. (Almost, anyway--"Dirt" stops everything dead for seven minutes.) There's something extremely physical about Funhouse--it was always one of the first albums I'd throw on whenever I came home drunk, and I'd kind of lurch around the room in a manner that vaguely resembled what is often referred to as "dancing"--whereas the other two seem more cerebral/concept- ual. I'm contradicting comments I made earlier about Led Zeppelin, where I said it was the Stooges who were more self-conscious about what they did. It's all relative-- as self-consciousness goes, I guess I'd put the Velvet Underground and Flipper at the more deliberate end of the spectrum, the Stooges somewhere in the middle, and Led Zeppelin as the most intuitive of the four. Seeing as I like both the Velvet Under- ground and Led Zeppelin more than the Stooges, I don't consider self-consciousness to be inherently good or bad. Yeah, that's what I think. (Note to self: don't try to theorize, you're not very good at it.) By the way, I still experience my fair share of amorphous anger at times, but I rarely turn to music anymore when I'm in that frame of my mind. Don't ask me what's replaced it--online Scrabble arguments, some- times...A few entries ago, I said that the Spinners were deeper in great songs than the Stylistics. I've ended up picking five for both groups, so what I should have said is that the Spinners' great songs were a little deeper than the Stylistics'. Four of the picks above go back to my CHUM days, while the fifth, "People Make the World Go Round," I didn't notice till years later when Spike Lee used it over the credits in Crooklyn (opening or closing, I can't remember.) I initially identified it as a Chi-Lites song in Radio On, which is somewhat embarrassing--I don't know how I could have mistaken Russell Thompkins, Jr. for anyone else, even a contemporary working within the same genre. Russell Thompkins, Jr. is a genre unto himself. If you had to name it, it would be the "People who use the word 'golly' and have a voice to match" genre. ________________________________________________________________________________ 2511. Poly Styrene: Translucence 2512. Suavé: I'm Your Playmate 2513. Sugarcubes: Life's Too Good 2514. Sugarcubes: "Coldsweat" 12-inch 2515. Suicide 2516. Suicide: Alan Vega • Martin Rev 2517. Suicide: Martin Rev/Alan Vega 2518. Suicide: "Dream Baby Dream" 12-inch 2519. Suicide Commandos: Make a Record 2520. Maxine Sullivan: 1944-1948 2521. Donna Summer: "Love to Love You Baby" 12-inch 2522. Donna Summer: Once Upon a Time 2523. Donna Summer: Bad Girls 2524. Donna Summer: On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II 2525. Donna Summer: The Wanderer 2526. Donna Summer: "Dinner With Gershwin" 12-inch 2527. Donna Summer: Another Place and Time Mixworthy: "Cheree," #2515; "Burn It Down," #2519; "Skylark," #2520; "I Feel Love," #2524. The Poly Styrene album was a great find--$3.00 in a Record Peddler clearout bin, right around the time when they were starting to winnow down their vinyl. I don't know the album at all, though--played it a couple of times and filed it. My recollec- tion is that it was pretty good, but obviously not X-Ray Spex...I played the Suicide Commando's "Burn It Down" on the radio this past weekend. As I scanned song titles, I noticed "Match/Mismatch" (which I also used to like) and "I Need a Torch" from the same album. These guys may be serving time right now...Writing about the Shoes last week, I suggested that, on the margins of pop history, they were more famous than Suicide. Scott Woods (a.k.a. this site's readership) disputed this in a follow-up e-mail: "definitely not true; in fact, I'd wager that it's not even really close." I think Scott's probably right, it's something I just wrote without giving it any thought, but I started wondering if you could devise a Bill James-like test to objec- tively measure fame within the world of pop music, something that could be applied to anyone from the Beatles to Suavé. Imitating Bill James is a hobby of mine, so here goes--eight questions you could use as a guide, arranged in roughly descending order of importance: 1. Whose albums and singles placed higher on Billboard? I'd put this one even ahead of record sales, although there's ostensibly a direct link between the two (not al- ways true in the pre-Soundscan era.) There are countless people who still have some measure of fame because of one memorable single and not much else--Napoleon XIV, Kim Carnes, etc., etc. "One-Hit Wonder" off the LP charts doesn't carry the same meaning, but the point I'm trying to make is that music charts are a form of collective memory, and as such, a key indicator of fame. I thought I could find out online if either the Shoes or Suicide made it onto Billboard's album chart, but they're fairly proprietary about that information--you have to start paying at that point. I could go the main Toronto Reference Library, where they keep Billboard on microfilm going back decades, and eventually I will. For now, an educated guess: Suicide wasn't even close, but the Shoes may have just grazed the lower reaches of the Top 200 with their first couple of Elektra albums. 2. Who sold more records? Again, closely linked to #1. Another guess: because the Shoes were on a major, and because they made many more albums than Suicide, they sold more. 3. Who was more influential? Much harder to quantify--impossible, actually. But I'll give this one to Suicide without much argument. Even if you count them as not much more than a couple of yelping clowns, they definitely were unique, and you can hear their influence without too much effort in any number of bands that followed. And even if you love the Shoes, they were still essentially a classical pop band belong- ing to a long line of them tracing back to the Beatles. Bands don't really steal from the Shoes; at best, they steal from the Shoes stealing from the Beatles. (You could, I suppose, say the same thing about Suicide, that whatever influence they had needs to be traced back to the Velvet Underground, but truthfully I don't hear much similar- ity between the two.) Both bands, by the way, have been the subjects of--or, if you'd prefer, subjected to--tribute albums (cue the Berkeley chorus: "Aren't tribute albums terrible?"): Your Invitation to Suicide and Shoe Fetish: A Tribute to the Shoes. 4. Who won more major awards? (Grammys first and foremost, also AMAs, MTVs, etc.) This one's a tie. 5. Who generated more critical support? I think an important part of Scott's case rests on this question: "There's also the whole Simon Reynolds Fan Club fetish over Suicide (he does a lengthy thing on them in the Spin guide; no entry at all for the Shoes)...I think if you were to do a search for each on ILM, you'd find the same." I don't know about this one. The Shoes had a very visible supporter in Christgau, and Ira Robbins gives them an enthusiastic fan's write-up on the Trouser Press site. Neither one gets an entry in the first Rolling Stone Record Guide--not sure if their albums were out by that point. Close call, but I'll put it this way: the Shoes are either praised or ignored, whereas Suicide is either praised, ignored, or ridiculed. 6. Have any books been written about either? Somewhat linked to the question above. As I mentioned before, there's now a book out about Suicide; there are none that I know of on the Shoes. I did find a three-part interview on Perfect Sound Forever. 7. Who turns up more page references on a Google search? Let's see--"Suicide" gene- rates 22,400,000 results, "Shoes" 29,700,000. Clear-cut win for the Shoes...I may have to rethink this one. 8. Has either ever been featured prominently on a film soundtrack? I might not have even thought of this if not for the fact that Suicide's "Frankie Teardrop" is used memorably in Fassbinder's In a Year of 13 Moons. There are undoubtedly people who first found out about Suicide via that route. I'd be amazed if the Shoes were ever used in a film. So--I give #1 and #2 to the Shoes, #3, #6, and #8 go to Suicide, #4's a tie, #5's a matter of contention, and #7's inoperative. Again, "fame" in this context is a pecu- liar concept. In my daily life, where I work, people have never heard of the Velvet Underground. I won't call my job "the real world," because every job I've ever had has had more than its share of unreality, but it is a separate world from the one where Suicide and the Shoes each have a measure of fame. ________________________________________________________________________________ 2528. Sunglasses After Dark: The Untamed Culture 2529. Supertramp: Crime of the Century 2530. Supertramp: Crisis? What Crisis? 2531. Supertramp: Even in the Quietest Moments 2532. Meet the Supremes 2533. Diana Ross and the Supremes: Greatest Hits 2534. Diana Ross and the Supremes: Anthology 2535. Al B. Sure!: In Effect Mode 2536. Swamp Dogg: I'm Not Selling Out/I'm Buying In! 2537. Billy Swan: I Can Help 2538. Billy Swan 2539. Keith Sweat: Make It Last Forever 2540. Sweet: Desolation Boulevard 2541. Rachel Sweet: Fool Around 2542. Rachel Sweet: Protect the Innocent 2543. Rachel Sweet: And Then He Kissed Me 2544. Rachel Sweet: Blame It on Love Mixworthy: "Your Heart Belongs to Me," #2532; "Where Did Our Love Go" and "Back in My Arms Again," #2533; "Reflections" and "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," #2534; "Ball- room Blitz" and "Fox on the Run," #2540. Yet another key high school album: yes, Crime of the Century. Some of these records, like Pretzel Logic and Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus below, still interest me, some, like Dark Side of the Moon and Crime of the Century, have been so thoroughly drained by classic-rock radio of whatever associative value they might have retained in terms of the '70s, they've lost the one thing that might conceivably still connect me to them. And that's really the key for me (notwithstanding the usual exceptions, like Led Zeppelin)--even if I never play Spirit anymore, they still represent a way into a time and a place that still does occupy a part of my mind, whereas Pink Floyd and Supertramp now have more to do with the Tragically Hip and Billy Idol than the era they came out of. I actually bought Even in the Quietest Moments relatively recently, say five years ago, possibly sparked by P.T. Anderson's use of "Goodbye Stranger" in Magnolia...The earlier Supremes best-of was one of the first used records I bought: got it at the Record Pedler, poster included, when they still kept a small used bin. Five songs may seem light--I'm bypassing a lot of great ones I won't list as spent but could. The one Supremes song that everyone should know but very few do (it's not included on either collection) is "Your Heart Belongs to Me," which leads off their debut...Four Rachel Sweet LPs is as inexplicable as the four Gwen Guthries I listed earlier. Creem gave her a lot of attention around the time of Protect the Innocent, with special emphasis placed on her age ("legally tenuous"). She covered "New Rose" on Protect the Innocent, and she duetted with Rex Smith on the LP after that. She came along at the wrong time--I don't know if she'd be Britney Spears today, but she at least had a Lil Bow Wow career in there somewhere. (Formerly "Lil Bow Wow"--he's now just known as "Wow.") I'm guessing she makes out fine from Hairspray residuals alone. ________________________________________________________________________________ 2545. Sweet Obsession 2546. Sweet Sensation: Take It While It's Hot 2547. Sweet Sensation: Love Child 2548. Swingin' Medallions: Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love) 2549. Sybil: "My Love Is Guaranteed" 12-inch 2550. Sybil: "Don't Make Me Over" 12-inch 2551. Syl Sylvain and the Teardrops 2552. Best of the Sylvers 2553. Sylvester: Step II 2554. Sylvester: Stars 2555. Sylvester: All I Need 2556. The System: Don't Disturb This Groove 2557. The System: Rhythm and Romance 2558. Talk Talk: It's My Mix 2559. Talking Heads '77 2560. Talking Heads: More Songs About Buildings and Food 2561. Talking Heads: Fear of Music 2562. Talking Heads: Remain In Light 2563. Talking Heads: Little Creatures Mixworthy: "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)," #2548; "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)," #2553. (More parentheses--in an odd sort of way, you actually could say that R.E.M. are the skewed offspring of the Swingin' Medallions and Sylvester.) I've long maintained that the Talking Heads are on the shortlist of the most criti- cally overrated bands in history. Nothing new to add, except to point out that, unless I'm not looking in the right places, they seem to have more or less vanished from all conversation about pop music. They'd be an interesting test-case for the meaning of "nostalgia," i.e., how much is nostalgia grounded in a desire to return to the time and place when we first encountered some piece of music (or whatever), nostalgia for the person we were at the time, and how much does it have to do with the thing itself, especially with those emotions contained within the thing that naturally trigger nostalgia--the boundless lift of an early Beatles single is an obvious example. Probably the two are impossible to separate, but if nostalgia is more closely predicated upon the thing itself, then I don't see the world's love for the Talking Heads growing over time...Taking everything into consideration--age, rarity, supposed value, musical interest--my greatest find over two decades of flip- ping through delete bins was the Swingin' Medallions' Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love). It's an album I probably would have been pretty lucky to find near the beginning of my time buying records--by 1976, it would have been 10 years old (having no idea at the time who they were, I of course would have flipped right past it)--but the real- ly amazing thing is that I instead found it right near the end, sometime in the late '80s, and also that it turned up in my hometown of Georgetown, at the very same store where I bought most of my earliest albums 15 years prior, G&S Television. They were only a year or two away from relocating and changing their name--it had originally been owned by the Laing family, daughter Christine being high-school crush #117, but new owners had taken over sometime earlier--and their album section had dwindled away to almost nothing by that point. They still racked a couple of dozen deletes, though, and Double Shot was one of them. I'm still astounded that this one record could have bounced from warehouse to warehouse for 25 years and somehow remained unclaimed. My copy's stereo, which is too bad: according to a note on the back, "the sound quality of any Smash Monaural recording is actually enhanced on a Stereo phonograph." It would have been nice to experience the Swingin' Medallions, an audiophile's dream, with that extra bit of enhanced sound quality.

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