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Mining My Inheritance 8: The Moving Sidewalks “Flash”

13 May
(Recently, while on a trip to South Texas, I discovered my father’s long lost record collection in what one would call less than desirable shape. In an effort to better understand my father’s taste, and my musical upbringing, I have decided to listen to each album that’s salvageable while at the same time tracking down the history of the album and writing my own thoughts on it. This should take a while, as there are at least 150 albums and I plan on trying to do two a week. Please join as I work my way through my musical inheritance.)

History: Before the beard, the glasses, the cars, the BBQ and the song “Legs”, Billy Gibbons was living in Houston and playing a blend of garage and psychedelic rock that would capture the attention of Jimi Hendrix. Formed in 1966, The Moving Sidewalks rode the wave of garage rock/psychedelia, rising to the top of the Houston music scene, opening for bands like The 13th Floor Elevators and going on tour with both Jimi Hendrix and The Doors. In 1968, the band put out their first–and last–release, Flash, on local label Tantara. The album did well locally but failed to find a hold nationally. In 1969, the band lost two members to Vietnam and broke up. Later that year, ZZ Top was formed. You may have heard of them.

The Moving Sidewalks- Flashback

The Moving Sidewalks- Pluto-Sept. 31st

The Moving Sidewalks- Reclipse

Thoughts: Jesus Christ, the 60s must have been a weird time to live in Texas. It’s a vastly conservative state that nonetheless helped give birth to psych-rock. I can’t imagine what it was like walking the streets and sitting in clubs as bands tried to create something new and express views that were directly against the beliefs of their elders, which makes the creation of The Moving Sidewalks’ sound all the more amazing.

Teenagers tend to suffer from hero worship, and Flash feels like a love letter to Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison at times, as the band kicks things off with Doors-like jam “Flashback”, a four-plus-minute song that’s all organ and shredding guitar before it takes a dive to reflection about three minutes in and Gibbons does his best “The End”. “Scoun Da Be”  keeps the Psych aspects alive. As it’s almost completely organ-driven, it’s hard for one to get over Gibbons very “Texas” voice, especially for those of us who experienced ZZ Top before discovering the Sidewalks.

Track three, “You Make Me Shake”, is interesting as a historical footnote and nothing else, while the fourth track, “You Don’t Know The Life”, is a sparse piece filled with lyrics of longing, as Gibbons and Co. are trying to express to everyone that they just don’t get it. It’s interesting to note that this shows quite a bit of Gibbons’ blues and soul influences, as it sounds like an Otis Redding jam.

“Pluto-Sept. 31st” is pure Hendrix, as Gibbons does his best to out-shred his hero and mimic his singing cadence. It’s really fucking interesting to see someone who would become a musical legend in his own right try to climb up and stand shoulder to shoulder with one of his heroes. It proves that no matter who you are, you’re just trying to attain a level of greatness close to someone you’ve looked up to.

“No Good To Cry” isn’t boring, but I just can’t think of a single thing to say about it that doesn’t have the words “slow”, “organ”, “guitar work”or “angst” in it. “Crimson Witch” feels the same way but features a much more interesting guitar riff and chorus. “Joe Blues” provides early evidence of where Gibbons would head with ZZ Top, as his guitar work feels familiar to fans of “La Grange”, and the almost eight-minute-long jam sinks deeper and deeper into his beloved Delta Blues.

“Eclipse” and “Reclipse” are what happen when you give kids studio toys: they go off and make something as odd as possible while still trying to get something out of their weirdness. As an avowed fan of the “Houston Noise Scene”, these tracks are wildly appealing to me and help show the connection the band had to their place of birth.

All in all, The Moving Sidewalks are one interesting piece of history, as they show the building blocks of what one of Texas’ treasures would become, and a snapshot of what was happening musically at the time.

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Mining My Inheritance 7: David Bowie “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”

5 May
(Recently while on a trip to South Texas, I discovered my father’s long-lost record collection, in what one would call less the desirable shape. In an effort to better understand my father’s taste, and my musical upbringing, I have decided to listen to each album that’s salvageable while at the same time tracking down the history of the album, and writing my own thoughts on it. This should take a while, as there are at least 150 albums, and I plan on only doing 2 a week (sometimes). Please join as I work my way through my musical inheritance. This entry is TO BE READ AT MAXIMUM VOLUME.–Jaime)

History: In 1972, David Bowie decided he was going to do whatever the hell he wanted with his music and his career. Going into the studio just weeks after the release of Hunky Dory, Bowie found himself hard at work on what would be one of his most recognizable works, namely the concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. A blend of the newly popular Glam rock and the pop-psychedelia he was known for, Ziggy would be one of the most challenging records Bowie had conceived. Along with working on the album itself,  Bowie spent time plotting a tour that would feature a concept and costumes he concocted with designer Kansai Yamamoto

Upon it’s release, the album hit No. 5 in the UK and No. 75 in the US, with the single “Starman” hitting the top 10 in England. The album made numerous “Best of All Time” lists, including Time’s “Best 100 Albums of All Time”. Additionally, many of the album’s tracks served as the backbone  for Seu Jorge’s contribution to the The Life Aquatic soundtrack, which featured Jorge playing acoustic versions of Bowie’s songs in Portuguese. Continue reading

Mining My Inheritance 6: The Modern Lovers “The Modern Lovers”

27 Apr
(Recently while on a trip to South Texas, I discovered my father’s long lost record collection, in what one would call less the desirable shape. In an effort to better understand my father’s taste, and my musical upbringing,I have decided to listen to each album that’s salvageable while at the same time tracking down the history of the album, and writing my own thoughts on it. This should take a while, as there are at least 150 albums, and I plan on only doing 2 a week. Please join as I work my way through my musical inheritance.)

all the modern lovers tacks

History: the story of The Modern Lovers is a complicated one to say the least. Formed in 1970 after a teenaged Jonathan Richman sawThe Velvet Underground while on a trip to New York City,they signed to Warner Brothers in 1971. They recorded with Velvet memberJohn Cale in ’73 and disbanded later that same year. Few bands have held the promise and spark that the Lovers had, and even fewer have traveled an odder world to becoming a sensation. Released in 1976, a full three years after the breakup of the original lineup, the band’s self titled debut was made up of remixes from their time spent recording with Cale and surprisingly found almost universal critical acclaim as it found underground success both in the US and in the UK (even being cited as a major influence on most punk bands).

The story is much more complicated than that, but I don’t have 2000-plus words in me to tell the whole story. Let’s just say it’s considered one of the greatest albums of all time, and you should try to track it down. Continue reading

Mining My Inheritance 5: Paul McCartney & Wings “Band on the Run”

20 Apr
(Recently while on a trip to South Texas, I discovered my father’s long lost record collection, in what one would call less the desirable shape. In an effort to better understand my father’s taste, and my musical upbringing,I have decided to listen to each album that’s salvageable while at the same time tracking down the history of the album, and writing my own thoughts on it. This should take a while, as there are at least 150 albums, and I plan on only doing 2 a week. Please join as I work my way through my musical inheritance.)

History: With his fifth album since leaving the Beatles (and third with his band Wings), Paul McCartney was riding a high from both his previous album, Red Rose Speedway, hitting number 1 and his hit theme for the James Bond film Live and Let Die. Using the success as leverage, McCartney and wife Linda requested their record company (Apple Records) allow them to travel to Lagos, Nigeria to record the album. Upon the album’s release in 1973, critical reaction was positive, with Rolling Stone hailing it as the best output by any of the ex-Beatles to that point. A financial success, the album went #1 in the US on three separate occasions and was the number 1 selling album in Britain that year. McCartney and co. won a Grammy, and the album was placed on Rolling Stone’s “Top 500 Albums of All Time” list.

Also, its iconic album cover, which featured Kelly Lynch, James Coburn, Christopher Lee, Clement Freud and an assortment of other celebrities, would go on to be parodied over and over in pop culture. Continue reading

Mining My Inheritance 4: The Clash–Combat Rock

15 Apr
(Recently while on a trip to South Texas, I discovered my father’s long lost record collection, in what one would call less the desirable shape. In an effort to better understand my father’s taste, and my musical upbringing,I have decided to listen to each album that’s salvageable while at the same time tracking down the history of the album, and writing my own thoughts on it. This should take a while, as there are at least 150 albums, and I plan on only doing 2 a week. Please join as I work my way through my musical inheritance.)

History: In 1982 The Clash were coming off what some thought was a disaster with the three-LP Sandinista!; the label was unhappy with both the sells performance of the record and the lack of radio friendly singles. The band entered the studio with plans to record a double-LP intended to be titled Rat Patrol At Fort Brag before their label (CBS) balked at the idea after the band had issues with the original mix. Buoyed by two radio-friendly hits, Combat Rock, brought the band their highest success with the album reaching number 2 in the UK and number 8 on the Billboard pop charts.

The Clash- Should I Stay Or Should I Go

The Clash- Rock The Casbah

The Clash- Straight to Hell

Thoughts: The fifth and final Clash album to feature the original lineup starts strong, with Joe Strummer yelling to the listener that “This is a public service announcement … with guitars!” on “Know Your Rights”. The combination of socially aware lyrics and a pulsating bit of guitar work makes the song a true Clash classic and shows that their formula nearly always works. I wish I had something interesting to say about “Car Jamming”, but I honestly just waited out the song to get to the radios staple “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”, a bawdry rocker sung by Mick Jones that features not only some of the best guitar work on any Clash song ever recorded, but drunken Spanish lyrics being shouted by Joe Strummer and Joe Ely in the background. If you don’t like “Should I Stay …”, you my friend are worse then Hitler.

“Rock the Casbah” is not about sex, as the Simpsons told us all those many years ago, but actually a dance-y attack on Islam’s crackdown on imported Western music. With its heavy piano and bass riff, it’s no wonder the song became such a dance hall hit over the years. Really, haven’t we all wanted to “Rock the Casbah” at least once?

“Red Angel Dragnet” is what happens when you have free access to drugs, music equipment and Taxi Driver. In a word, it is simply awesome.

The heavily sampled “Straight to Hell” was considered by the band to be the best thing they’ve ever done, and they’re right. The unchareceristicly reserved sound of the song allows Strummer to deliver his lyrical attack with a punch, and my god that guitar riff. “Overpowerd by Funk”, “Atomic Tan” and “Ghetto Defendent” are why you should love The Clash: they took the weirdness of Sandanista! and kept running with it by giving us a bass-heavy proto-funk jam, a raging attack on nuclear fears and fucking Allen Ginsberg stopping a song cold to do a reading. Oh, to be drugged out and brash in the 80s.

Overall, Combat Rock may not be the best Clash album (that would be London Calling), but it certainly is the most polished.

Mining My Inheritance 3: Fleetwood Mac “Rumours”

8 Apr
(Recently while on a trip to South Texas, I discovered my father’s long lost record collection, in what one would call less the desirable shape. In an effort to better understand my father’s taste, and my musical upbringing,I have decided to listen to each album that’s salvageable while at the same time tracking down the history of the album, and writing my own thoughts on it. This should take a while, as there are at least 150 albums, and I plan on only doing 2 a week. Please join as I work my way through my musical inheritance.)

History: Coming off a substantial hit with their self-titled album,  Fleetwood Mac found themselves in the postition of having to follow up a 5-million copy album, and the inner turmoil of having their romantic lives hit the skids. Many have failed to come close to the succes of their breakthroughs, and with the members of the band going through divorce and seperation, not just from loved ones, but from loved ones who were actually members of the band, the chance to scratch the surface of their previous success seemed out of their reach.

Moving into a poppier outlook, the memebers of Fleetwood Mac (Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lyndsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks) embraced their inner heathen as a coping mechanism and put together an album that’s considered a landmark of the 70’s. Rumours produced four top 10 hits and was certified platinum. It managed to find its way onto numerous “Best Ever” lists and served as inspiration for numerous bands, while the story behind the making of the band became something of a legend, not just for the turbulent personal issues, but for the sheer amount of excess that went on during the recording process.

Continue reading

Mining my Inheritance 2: Lou Reed “Transformer”

6 Apr
(Recently while on a trip to South Texas, I discovered my father’s long lost record collection, in what one would call less the desirable shape. In an effort to better understand my father’s taste, and my musical upbringing,I have decided to listen to each album that’s salvageable while at the same time tracking down the history of the album, and writing my own thoughts on it. This should take a while, as there are at least 150 albums, and I plan on only doing 2 a week. Please join as I work my way through my musical inheritance.)

History: Lou Reed’s second album after leaving The Velvet Underground is considered a landmark for the glam genre, and for rock’n’roll in general, having been the first album of mostly new material recorded by Reed (his first album, the self-titled one was made up of Velvet songs). Produced by Velvet super fans David Bowie and Mick Ronson (lead guitarist for Bowie’s backing band The Spiders) Transformer was lauded for its pop outlook and unflinching look at the underground (it should however be noted that Underground compositions “Andy’s Chest” and “Satellite of Love” were slowed from pop numbers, to become ballad-like). The album would reach #29 on the Billboard charts and the first single, “Walk On The Wild Side”, would hit #16 on the singles chart and to this day remains a radio staple.

Lou Reed- Walk On The Wild Side

Lou Reed- Satellite of Love

Thoughts: I love Lou Reed, and yeah that’s a cliché for people my age but, god, the man’s music has a way of crossing over to most, if not all, generations. I guess it’s got something to do with timeless themes and damn near perfect harmonies. The album starts with “Vicious”, a typical Reed song filled with biting lyrics and a steady guitar that segues into a thrash at times. “Andy’s Chest” is definitely a Velvets song, filled with vivid imagery and an almost sardonic tone that’s really quite 60s. The much-loved “Perfect Day” is as powerful now as it was when first released; at almost four minutes long, the soul like ode (really it’s damn near a Motown song) to heroin is pretty much the perfect slow burn, till it builds to heavy piano arrangements (it’s a clear precursor to what he would do on Berlin) every minute or so, causing the listener to forget that it’s a drug that’s causing this output, and not a significant other. The steady rocking “Hangin’ Round” feels like it’s the basis of every Hold Steady song ever recorded. “Walk On The Wild Side” is one of those lasting bits of culture that may just stay with us forever, sampled to death, and even now just recently remixed for what feels like the 1224445th time. Its cacophony kicks, and the indelible chorus is hard to ignore, and even harder not to sing along to.

“Make Up” really did nothing for me, but my high friend danced along to it, which is impressive due to all tuba. “Satellite of Love” makes my list of best random songs to ever be featured in a movie, having popped up in more than a few films over the last two-plus decades to show that not only is he movie hip, but it’s so hip it uses a side b Lou Reed song. This does not diminish the song in the least, as the space-age era take on love and culture is as lasting, as is its rather fantastic roaring finish.

Word is “Wagon Wheel” was a Bowie song, and honestly it feels like one, with its pick-ups and breaks being reminiscent of what Bowie would do on Aladdin Sane just a year later.  I swear Reed writes pop music like “New York Telephone Conversation” just to fuck with us, and rockers like “I’m So Free” feel so effortless it’s as if he’s barely trying. “Goodnight Ladies” is the perfect way to end the album, close a bar and this article.

Transformer deserves every accolade it’s received, including that one quote writers unabashedly throw out whenever writing about a Reed record.

(It was just brought to my attention that Dad’s Records just covered this album, meaning that my idea is far from original, and great music is universal.)