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Behind.

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The Internet remains a wonderful tool for solving all of those little mysteries I’ve been carrying around for years. God only knows what I’d be without it.

Speaking of which, the ‘webs tonight have cleared up something I’ve wondered about for close to 30 years … a rock n’ roll mystery, and thus fair game for discussion on this blog.

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Years ago, somebody (possibly a Beach Boys-loving cousin) gave my dad a copy of the band’s 1973 live album The Beach Boys In Concert. He’s never been a BBs fan, but I took a shine to some of their music, and as a kid, I remember hearing the album several times.

In Concert, while surely improved by studio sweetening, is an excellent document of the band’s live show before it completely toppled over into nostalgia. Plain and simple, the record rocks. Compare the studio version of “Marcella” with the onstage version and tell me you disagree:

Not only was the music good, but Ed Caraeff’s cover photography provided evocative images of the live experience for a kid who hadn’t been to a concert yet. In particular, there’s one shot of Carl Wilson at the mic, spotlights bouncing off his hollowbody Epiphone Sheraton, that nails the touring-troubadour vibe as well as any live photo I’ve seen. He looks simultaneously like he’s working magic, and like he’s just another guy doing his daily job.

(Remarkably, it doesn’t seem to be on the ‘Net. Maybe it doesn’t speak to anyone else the way it spoke to me. Go buy the record and you’ll see it. — Edit: Actually, you can see it front and center in the video for the live version of “Marcella.” It appears at about 1:45 in.)

Caraeff’s gatefold photography also offered a curious glimpse at the petty bitchiness of the rock n’ roll life, in a clue the average listener could only guess at.

One of his backstage pictures shows early-’70s Beach Boys drummer Ricky Fataar slumped down in a chair in some interchangeable sports-arena dressing room, accompanied by an unidentifiable man in a football jersey.

I say “unidentifiable” because — in a crude bit of pre-Photoshop photo manipulation — the other guy’s face is blocked by the random and somewhat jarring image of an eight-ball.

Of course I knew the meaning of the term “behind the eight-ball” as a kid. I could only wonder what sort of backstage backstabbing could lead to such treatment. I assumed that the person pictured must have been well and truly on the outs with the BBs organization.

eightballI wasn’t the only person who wondered about it. A Google search turned up all manner of online speculation among Beach Boys fans. Among the leading candidates:

– Jack Rieley, the band’s short-tenured manager around that time. (Nope, the Internet chorused; Rieley is bulkier of build than the guy behind the eight-ball.)

– Brian Wilson, then making only occasional live appearances — and, by some tellings, only occasional contact with reality. (Nope again. ’72 Brian was also larger than the man in the picture, and at any rate, the Beach Boys didn’t have any clear reason to punk him that way.)

– Dennis Wilson, who — bereft of drumming duties — was kind of a man without a country in the ’72-’73 Boys’ live act. (Very likely nope. Dennis appears unaltered on the front and back covers, and in at least one gatefold shot.)

– Ed Carter, Beach Boys road guitarist. (I forget what the nope here was, but it wasn’t him either.)

It turns out that the guy behind the eight-ball wasn’t persona non grata after all. In fact, he would continue to be part of the band’s live show for the better part of the next decade.

According to multiple sources, the censored dude next to Fataar was keyboardist Carli Muñoz, who toured as the band’s keyboardist from 1970 to 1981. (Muñoz is one of several sidemen credited in the liner notes to In Concert, though his name is misspelled “Carly.”)

I’d heard of Muñoz before — most recently in the liner notes for Dennis Wilson’s reissued Pacific Ocean Blue album. Muñoz worked extensively with Wilson on Bambu, the never-released follow-up to Pacific Ocean Blue, until Wilson’s self-destructiveness drove him away. Five songs written or co-written by Muñoz appear on the bonus disc of Bambu recordings issued with the Pacific Ocean Blue re-release.

As is so often the case with sidemen and support players, Muñoz’s story is deeper and more interesting than that.

A native of Puerto Rico, he played in an early band with Jorge Calderon, who went on to become Warren Zevon’s longtime sideman and co-writer.

Muñoz also played with a wide-ranging variety of acts in addition to the Beach Boys — among them Wilson Pickett, Peter Cetera, the Association, and jazz drummer Chico Hamilton.

Today, he plays and records jazz and owns his own restaurant and nightclub in San Juan, where he often performs. (The site hasn’t been updated in a little while, so perhaps this is not the latest information.)

I cannot find a circulating explanation of Muñoz’s treatment on the In Concert cover. But he has confirmed to Beach Boys fans that it was him behind the eight-ball, and has even been known to autograph the picture, which is pretty cool of him.

Now that I’ve cleared this up, maybe I’ll spin the vinyl this weekend. Usually my ears gravitate to the vocals, but this time I’ll listen for the piano and organ parts, now that I know who’s playing them.

Even if I don’t know what he looked like.

Would you lie down, do nothin’, give in or go berserk?

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Research challenge for someone with more time, smarts and resources than me:

Chart the performance of Wings’ “Give Ireland Back To The Irish” in regions of America with significant Irish-American populations, as compared to those without.

It was this week in 1972 that Paul McCartney’s quickly recorded response to the Bloody Sunday shootings reached its U.S. chart peak, at Number 21.

Not a great placement for a solo Beatle, perhaps, but a pretty good showing for a topical protest song not directly involving American affairs.

By comparison, Bob Dylan’s “George Jackson” topped out at only Number 33 the year before, while “The Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley” reached Number 37. (One imagines William Calley had more supporters in early-’70s America than the IRA did.)

McCartney’s song, to no one’s great surprise, was banned by the BBC.

Here in the States, squeamish programming directors had the option of playing the single’s B-side, an instrumental version of the song.

The invaluable ARSA database of local radio-play charts used to have charts saying the instrumental version of “Give Ireland Back” was getting regular play at several stations. As of March 2016 those surveys are no longer there; perhaps they were mistaken.

Unfortunately, the ARSA database isn’t complete. It doesn’t have every local radio chart, just the ones people have collected and scanned in. So I can’t rely on it to compare the single’s performance in South Boston to its performance in, say, El Paso.

ARSA does give us a couple of interesting figments regarding the song’s regional chart arcs, though:

– WPOP and WDRC, rival stations in Hartford, Conn., had the song in their hitbound rotations as soon as it was released. Listeners kept it in both stations’ Top 40 for almost two months, with a peak at Number 8 on WDRC and Number 9 on WPOP.

– Seven surveys from heavily Irish Boston exist in the ARSA database, all from station WMEX. WMEX added the single to its hitbound rotation early on, but surviving surveys have it placing no higher than No. 13.

– The song reached the Top Ten at stations in in Akron; Albany, N.Y.; Cleveland; Hartford; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Willimantic, Conn.; Boise, Idaho; and Melbourne, Australia.

– The only known instance of “Give Ireland Back” hitting Number One in a local chart was in Wilmington, Del., of all places, where WAMS listed the song at the top for at least two weeks.

– As late as May 3, KDON in Salinas, Calif., was moving the song into its Top Ten. (I always find it interesting to read about late-breaking outliers. Were there stations that waited to make sure the song didn’t cause riots before adding it to their playlists?)

– The equally wonderful musicradio77.com, which collects all things related to New York City’s old WABC, indicates the song was absent from the station’s hit charts throughout that spring.

The charts do not indicate whether the song was actively banned by WABC — as other songs that year were — or whether it simply didn’t get significant airplay there.

All these years later, “Give Ireland Back To The Irish” remains a rare example of McCartney commenting on current events.

And while its politics may be a little muddled (only Macca would write a pro-Irish protest song with the words “Great Britain, you are tremendous”), the song is still an effective, biting counterweight to some of the catchy-but-vacant pap McCartney would later put out.

 

Published.

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Still sucking wind as far as good post ideas go, but it’s nothing a trivia quiz won’t cure.

What do lawyers and liner-note obsessives have in common? An interest in music publishing companies, among other things.

If you’ve read album covers or CD booklets, you’ve seen the names of at least a few music publishing companies, usually suffixed with ASCAP or BMI. These companies hold the copyright on an artist’s songs, and collect royalties based on the public use of those songs.

Some artists keep the names of their publishing companies basic, saving their imagination for the music.

“The Hustle,” for instance, was published by Van McCoy Music, while the artist who created Dirty Mind had his songs published by Ecnirp Music.

Other performers choose names with personal resonance, or make references to their music, or opt for something whimsical.

(At least one performer immortalized the company that published his music in a particularly listless and cynical song, dragging publishing companies forever out of obscurity.)

Here’s a list of 25 publishing companies used by (mostly) well-known rock performers. See if you can figure out — or, if you’re a liner-note junkie, remember — the artists behind the names.

We’ll start more or less easy, and get more or less harder. No prizes for guessing right, but feel free to leave your guesses in the comments. You know where they are. I’ll be back in a couple of days with the answers.

Oh, and no extra credit for knowing whether these are ASCAP or BMI:

1. James Osterberg Music

2. Jones Music

3. Cram Renraff

4. Fram-Dee Music

5. Daksel Music

6. Ram’s Horn Music

7. Wilojarston Music

8. Ceros Music

9. Boo-fant Tunes

10. Polish Prince Music

11. Flames of Albion Music

12. Lipstick Killers Pub. Inc.

13. Casserole Music

14. Vindaloo Productions

15. Ackee Music

16. Stay High Music

17. Ice Nine Publishing

18. Earmark Music

19. Plangent Visions Music

20. Yessup Music

21. Easy Money Music

22. Man-Ken Music

23. Fifth Floor Music

24. Found Farm Ballads

25. Canaan Music

Five For The Record: The Left Banke, “Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina.”

A recurring feature in which I look at something I enjoy but have never thought deeply about, and force myself to clearly state five reasons why I like it.

Today’s subject: First album by New York City-based baroque-pop quintet.  Released February 1967. Spawned — or, perhaps, collected — two Top 20 singles (both of them mentioned in the album title, but more on that anon.) Peaked at No. 67 on the Billboard album charts.

And here’s why I like it:

1. Long, long, long. Of all the rock bands in all the gin joints in all the world, few have ever captured the sound and feel of longing quite as well as the Left Banke.

Both of their big hits (did I mention they’re both in the album title?) deal with a young man trying none too successfully to clear his mind of a departed but still revered young woman.

“Walk Away Renee” was the bigger hit. I acknowledge a certain genius at work there, but I’ve always found the song a little too weepy, too delicate and perhaps too string-sodden to become a real favorite.

“Pretty Ballerina,” on the other hand, is gentle and heartwrenching and mesmeric.

Unlike the narrator of “Renee,” who seems to be coming to terms with Renee’s departure, the narrator here still seems under a spell. He hasn’t gotten over the pretty ballerina, and he doesn’t seem to know a way out; we can’t be sure how long she’s been gone, but at the end of the song, he’s still closing his eyes and seeing her.

“I called her yesterday / It should have been tomorrow” captures romantic desire about as well as anybody ever has in nine words, too.

2. The non-hit. After leading off with “Pretty Ballerina,” the album shifts gears, going uptempo — though no less emotionally complicated — with “She May Call You Up Tonight.”

It’s another dose of gorgeous, chiming, regretful pop, with ingenious one-note high harmony on the chorus.

The lyric, meanwhile, is half-sketched in the classic tradition. We learn neither the roots of the situation nor its resolution; we get only a snapshot, a snatch of conversation, to work from.

Wiki says the song peaked at No. 120 on the singles charts (do they even go that low?), which can only be interpreted as a stunning gap in taste among American pop listeners.

The invaluable ARSA database tells us that “She May Call You Up Tonight” bordered on hit status in Oxnard, California, for much of July 1967. A feather in Oxnard’s cap. Forsooth!

3. Uneasy bedfellows. When I learned about the Left Banke’s reputation as a “baroque-pop” band, I kind of put them on a pedestal of lofty velvet-parlor artiness.

But until I heard the record, it never occurred to me that they were twentysomethings in the Sixties writing songs for teens.

Which means all the harpsichord flourishes and oboe solos coexist with rockheaded lyrics about saying goodbye to that Sixties archetype, the No-Good Girl. (“I’ve got to make you see, you’re not the girl for me / And I will prove it to you / So that you will see.”)

The clash is most delicious on “Evening Gown,” in which a bouncy, jingling harpsichord riff meets a Nuggets-raw vocal about a young lady dressed for a night at the cotillion.

The third verse ends with an open-throated “WHAAAAAOOOOOOOWWWWW!” worthy of the Chocolate Watch Band, the Troggs or some other knuckle-dragging garage-punk outfit. It’s great.

(There’s a totally random YouTube video that sets the song to some sort of animated asylum fantasy; I suggest cueing up the video and then doing something in another browser while the song plays.)

4. Stylistic pioneers. Sure, the garage-pop elements of the record took me by surprise.

But I was even more slack-jawed to come across “What Do You Know,” a straight-ahead country-rock tune that anticipates most of what Buffalo Springfield ever did.

(For maximum stylistic dissonance, “What Do You Know” is placed directly after the epic baroque ballad “Walk Away Renee” at the start of Side Two.)

It’s an OK song but not tremendously memorable, truth be told. It’s not the absolute first in its field either — the Byrds did this sort of thing earlier, as did the Beatles when they cut “Act Naturally.”

And whether an antecedent of country-rock is something to celebrate or something to revile is up to you, the listener.

I was just surprised the Left Banke went down that particular avenue at all, especially given they were there before a lot of other bands.

5. Just the hits, ma’am. In 1966-67, bands like the Beatles, Beach Boys and Rolling Stones were starting to expand the possibilities of the album title, coining wry puns (Revolver) and outright non sequiturs (Between the Buttons) that had little to do with anything on the record.

But less influential or popular bands were still stuck with whatever album title the record label coughed out. And often, the title of the big hit or hits was the obvious choice.

And so, we have an album title whose unimaginative, move-’em-out bluntness is just as much a remnant of its time as the swirling string arrangements on the vinyl.

I wonder what the guys in the band might have called the album, if they’d had a choice.

Unsatisfied.

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My man Jim Bartlett posted a piece yesterday about The Smoking Gun’s online archive of tour riders, which provides a wonderful look into the backstage demands and vanities of well-known performers.

(One of my favorites: B.B. King’s request not to have dinner supplied. This could be for any number of reasons. I like to think it was B.B.’s response to hard-earned success: “I’m through eating rubber chicken in the dressing room. When I’m done with this gig, I’m gonna take my walking-around money someplace classy and buy myself a lobster. No, make that two.“)

I’ve been to the Rider Archive before. But this time I found myself asking some obvious questions that had never occurred to me.

Anyone who knows the music industry is welcome to enlighten me on these, using the Comments section.

Or, if you don’t have any firsthand knowledge, I welcome wild and scurrilous speculation:

1. How common is it for a promoter to fail to live up to the terms of the rider?

And, related to that …

2. What happens if an artist doesn’t get what they want, to some greater or lesser degree?

I’m led to believe that tour riders can specify all kinds of things, from technical details of sound and staging to the flavor of bubble gum in the dressing room.

That means a promoter could violate a rider in any number of ways, large or small.

It could be anything from failing to hire enough security and support staff … to not sufficiently preparing the stage in some way … to stocking the backstage coolers with RC Cola instead of Pepsi.

Now, if the promoter does something that truly imperils the band or audience, or makes a professional stage presentation impossible, the band would presumably refuse to play.

(That promoter probably wouldn’t be in business long, either.)

But if the promoter breaks the contract in some other, lesser way … well, that’s another question:

3. How much blatant defiance of their backstage rider will a performer accept before he or she refuses to take the stage (or get off the tour bus)?

This might vary from performer to performer: Some are divas, others are troupers.

It might also vary from era to era. In the druggy, pampered ’70s, American cheese on the deli tray instead of Muenster might have been enough to trigger a Nigel Tufnel-style flip-out. I’m guessing (based purely on gut) that today’s major performers have at least a little more tolerance for not getting exactly what they want.

Still, canceling a concert can cost a performer a fair amount of money and, maybe, fan loyalty as well.

So how much will they put up with? The wrong brand of beer? A lousy catered dinner — or no dinner at all? No dressing-room Wi-Fi? No backstage runner with a van, ready to take band members on any errand they want?

I am guessing that most bands will put up with just about anything, because the show must go on.

If they truly get shafted by a promoter, they’ll probably just make a mental note never to work with that person again. They may also take their frustration out on the audience with a half-hearted show.

Which leads to a final question …

4. Was that shitty, uninspired Santana concert I sat through in 1993 so lame because the promoter insisted on loading the deli tray with pressed turkey loaf?

I read it too. What does it mean?

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This past week, music-loving bloggers everywhere shared their memories of the late Levon Helm — singer, drummer, mandolinist, roots-rock pioneer, actor, and Time magazine coverboy.

While it wasn’t at the top of his CV, it’s true that Levon and his Band-mates made the cover of America’s largest and longest-running general news magazine the week of Jan. 12, 1970.

I imagine they groaned when they looked at the cover illustration, which made Richard Manuel look like Baba Yaga’s late husband.

(Interestingly, the Jan. 5 issue declared Middle Americans the Men and Women of the Year — a roots move of which Robbie Robertson would have approved.)

The cover of Time doesn’t have quite the same pop-cultural cachet as the cover of the Rollin’ Stone. Still, it’s something of an accomplishment. Not many pop music performers have landed inside that famous red border over the years.

I decided to go through the magazine’s online gallery and pick the five best and worst Time magazine pop-music covers, based on:

  1. The cover photo.
  2. The cover design.
  3. My perception of the worth of the subject.

My judgment does not take into account the contents of the actual cover stories, which I don’t believe I can read without a subscription.

Also, I have not reproduced the actual cover images here because of copyright concerns. Each link opens up in a new window, though, so you can check out each image without losing the thread here.

So here we go:

The Five Best Time Magazine Pop Music Covers

1. Rock n’ Roll, May 21, 1965. In hindsight, parts of this cover are kinda questionable. (Trini Lopez? Petula Clark?) But I love the snapshot approach. Rather than choose one act and try to make them Officially Anointed Representatives of Rock N’ Roll, the cover collage captures all the different sounds that people were mixing into pop music at the time. Soul, Motown, teenie pop, little symphonies for the kids — it’s all there. And the shot of the “Shindig” dancers used at the top of the cover conveys the most important message — youthful energy.

2. Aretha Franklin, June 28, 1968. What do I like most? Is it the immense corona of hair? The enigmatic Mona Lisa-ish expression? The use of a subdued painterly approach, rather than some sort of disjointed attempt at pop art? The word “TIME” rendered in pink, as befitting a natural woman? Could be all of these and more. The bottom line: A classic (dare I say “respectful”?) cover for a classic performer.

3. Bruce Springsteen, Oct. 27, 1975. I’m not sure what I think of the neon/stage light treatment. But the cover image absolutely nails the Springsteen I love — the loose-jointed, golden-tongued Boardwalk Bard. He looks like he’s having a fantastic time, and he’s going to make sure that everyone in the room does the same.

4. David Bowie, July 18, 1983. This is one of the few occasions on which Time’s cover featured a performer I liked, at the time I liked him. I remember reading this issue, so I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for this one. Personal connection aside, I do think it’s a pretty good likeness of the man, down to his green and blue eyes. And his stylistically varied career (careen?) up to that point made him a deserving cover choice.

5. U2, April 27, 1987. By contrast, I couldn’t stand U2 when they appeared on the cover of Time.  But the cover works well in retrospect, even if it made me groan then. I like the simple design and the fittingly emblematic/symbolic fire treatment. The subhed, meanwhile, plays off the fire theme without being (IMHO) gimmicky or heavy-handed.

Also, the cover shot bears none of the hallmarks of Anton Corbijn, U2’s official court photographer and keeper of their visual iconography. The band seems to be looking suspiciously at the camera, wondering whether the unfamiliar person behind the lens would capture the power, the mystery and the hammer of the gods. (The shot? It’s OK.)

On the flip side …

The Five Worst Time Magazine Pop Music Covers

1. The Beatles, Sept. 22, 1967. If Richard Manuel had cause for complaint against Time magazine, Ringo Starr had grounds for a lawsuit. The world’s most revered pop drummer at the time looks like a sozzled, spiky-haired Muppet in Gerald Scarfe’s cover caricature — not that any of his bandmates come off better. (Random trivia note: Scarfe later married Jane Asher, who was engaged to Paul McCartney at the time this cover appeared.)

The only word for this cover is “ghastly.” Nowadays, the managers of best-selling pop acts probably demand veto rights on magazine covers — and would reject this one out of hand.

2. Joni Mitchell, Dec. 16, 1974. I adore “Court and Spark,” and I love the idea that La Mitchell landed on Time’s cover at her moment of greatest pop success. The only trouble is this: The orange lady pictured huge in the background looks damn near nothing like Joni Mitchell.

The smaller woman in the foreground looks somewhat more like Joni. Though, what she really looks like is the earnest young librarian who used to tote her guitar to the Saturday-night coffeehouses at the Youth Center in 1974, and whose presence there increased teen-boy participation by 250 percent before she moved out to southern California to live with her sister.

3. The Who, Dec. 17, 1979. In a world with the likes of Pere Ubu, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and Public Image Ltd doing business, the notion that a tired, sodden bunch of veteran corporate rockers could represent “Rock’s Outer Limits” is laughable.

The design touches (checkerboard, graffiti) also smack of a sort of late ’70s-early ’80s Urban Gothic aesthetic, a kind of post-disco return to blue jeans and muted New Wavey guitar licks and hollow, hostile amphetamine stares. I’m sure it looked Bold and Edgy and Real back then … but seen from today’s perspective, that visual style is about as fresh as Jim Carroll’s unwashed Chuck Taylors.

4. David Byrne, Oct. 27, 1986. In some ways this is actually kinda cool. The idea of using multiple, somewhat out-of-sync close-up shots to make up a larger picture has to be an homage to the cover of “More Songs About Buildings and Food.” Five points for conceptual continuity.

Unfortunately, I find the multi-colored photo treatment so thoroughly jarring and unattractive that it kills the whole package. I also can’t help but think that maybe Time went a little overboard on the whole “Renaissance man” thing: How much of Byrne’s film direction or design work still holds up in court 25 years later?

5. Jewel, July 21, 1997. Combine a blah cover shot; a lame headline (I assume it’s a pun on “Kool and the Gang,” which is to say it’s totally irrelevant wordplay for wordplay’s sake); and an earnest, polarizing subhed (“Macho music is out. Empathy is in”), and the result is a cover that makes you avert your eyes and wish you could un-see it.

I also find it kind of doubtful that Jewel represented the best and most promising performer in her genre. And, if you’re gonna pick one performer to represent an entire genre, you need to pick the best one if you want your choice to stand the test of time. (See Pearl Jam, 1993; Merle Haggard, 1974; or The Band, 1970.)