Saturday, November 17, 2007

Simply Divinyls

Time for another long-overdue band salute, this time for a group who is most famous for a rather infamous song, Australia's Divinyls.  There is much much more to this band than their ode to masturbation, 1991's "I Touch Myself"In a nutshell, Divinyls are singer Christina Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee, and a constantly changing lineup of drummers, bass players, et al.  I like to describe the oddly-charismatic Amphlett as a strange hybrid of a white Tina Turner and Angus Young of AC/DC in terms of her semi-slutty schoolgirl antics on-stage, especially in the band's earlier days in the '80s.

My best friend Tom tried in vain early on to turn me on to the band's classic 1983 Desperate album, and for some unknown reason, I just wasn't impressed at the time.  Tom, my brother, I readily admit that I fucked upI hereby take full responsibility for being so unequivocably wrong here, and I apologize profusely for ever doubting you!  I also deeply regret not sticking around to see the group in concert on that beastly hot July day when we were at Six Flags over St. Louis during the great heat wave of '83we were unaware they were scheduled to play there that night when we arrived in the morning, but by mid-afternoon we were both frying like bacon in the sun, and headed back to our hotel and the cool shady swimming pool thereof.  Majorly missed opportunity, although we did eventually see the band a couple years later opening for The Cult at the Uptown Theater in K.C.

Divinyls got a fair amount of airplay on MTV for their 1985 release, What A Life! and the minor hit single "Pleasure And Pain".  They followed that album with the even-better Temperamental in 1988, then were finally noticed in America when they started touching themselvesthe irony being that their biggest hit came from what was probably their weakest album, 1991's self-titled Divinyls.  I more or less lost track of them after that, although they've apparently released other records down under over the years.  I highly recommend their album Desperate from 1983, which is far and away their best from front to back.

My Divinyls Top 10:
10) "Back To The Wall" (1988)  Love the guitar figure near the end that mimics the schoolyard "Nyah nah na nyah nah!" chant.
9) "Boys In Town" (1983)  Lead-off track from the Desperate LP, and a frequent concert opener as well.
8) "Temperamental" (1988)  Title track of their second-best album, IMHO.
7) "Only Lonely" (1983)  This one had hit single written all over it, but it didn't happen here.
6) "Science Fiction" (1983)  Song with a touch of '80s synthesizer in itanother one that should've been a hit single over here.
5) "Guillotine Day" (1985)  Best song off the somewhat-wimpy What A Life album.  Amphlett cracks me up when she sings the line "too many stains in the bed..."
4) "Hey Little Boy" (1988)  Outstanding re-genderfied cover version of Syndicate of Sound's 1966 hit "Hey Little Girl".  McEntee's guitar work is top-notch here.  One of my all-time favorite remakes.
3) "Siren Song" (1983)  Great up-tempo track on which Mark and Christina do a rare duet.
2) "Elsie" (1983)  Lurid mid-tempo song portrait about a troubled and slightly deranged girl, whom Amphlett made seem very real with her vocals here:  "Life can be lonely/Life can be very sad/Life can be something you wish you never had..."  Great bass line on this one too.
1) "I'll Make You Happy" (1983)  Killer remake of 1966 hit by Australia's Easybeats (of "Friday On My Mind" fame), who featured guitarist George Young, brother of AC/DC's Malcolm and Angus Young.  Another of my all-time favorite cover songs.

A-blogging we will go...

It cracks me up how local letter-writers to the K.C. Star are finally calling the Rev. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church a "hate group".  Funny how they were still considered to be a "church" when they merely picketed the funerals of gay people who died of AIDS, but now that they picket the funerals of dead U.S. military personnel (as per their warped rationale that said U.S. soldiers died defending a country that has the nerve to tolerate homosexuality), they're officially a "hate group".  Got a news flash for y'allthese losers were always a fucking hate group!!!

One can only hope that the recent multi-million $$ damages court ruling against this fuckwad and his merry band of nutbags will put them all in the poor house for good.  I say fuck free speech in this case, folks...

Barry Bonds is going down like the Titanic. Is that perfectly "clear"?

During that pre-game warm-up session at the Colorado Avalanche game I attended where they played Sweet's "Fox On The Run" (see previous post), the arena organist kicked in after the players left the ice and started playing a tune that I couldn't quite place right away.  After about two minutes, I finally recognized that it was .38 Special's "Caught Up In You"not exactly a song you would expect to hear on the ol' Wurlitzer!  It would've fit right in on Randy Raley's "Elevator From Hell" segment, too.  All the same, organs are still standard equipment at any hockey game...

Speaking of elevator music, one of my former employers had one of the funniest Muzak systems on earth.  Folks, you haven't lived until you've heard Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds' classic "Don't Pull Your Love" playing overheadon the accordion!!  Even Weird Al would have hit his knees and uttered "I'm not worthy!" after hearing this polka.  This same Muzak system sure played a lot of Kiss songs tooI distinctly remember hearing no less than four Kiss tunes ("Beth", "Every Time I Look At You", "Sure Know Something" and "Forever"), which doubles the number of Kiss tunes our esteemed local Rock stations generally play ("Beth"/"Rock And Roll All Nite") on a regular basis.

Man, did they time this first Missouri-Kansas football game at Arrowhead Stadium next weekend perfectly or what?  With both MU and KU winning today, the table is now set for a classic college foosball game at the 'Head with everything on the line for both schools, instead of some meaningless season finale, which they're both known for playing.  Let's get ready to rumble!

Speaking of college football, I watched a good flick on DVD last night, We Are Marshall, the true story of the aftermath of the tragic 1970 plane crash that virtually wiped out the Marshall University football team, its coaching staff and numerous supporters.  Like most football flicks, it was a tad predictable at times, but I liked it overall, and I think they told the story quite well.  I was especially pleased with the music soundtrack, which did a nice job of spotlighting the songs that were popular during that 1970-71 period, which is the "Golden Age" of Top 40 radio for me.  And of course, the Thundering Herd (or "Thundering Turd" as I affectionately call them) rose from the ashes and went on to field a very successful NCAA football program.  I give the movie a B+.

Brian Holland's Top 3 Greatest Song Titles of All-Time:
For no particular reason...
1) "Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)JOE TEX (1977)
2) "Tit Photographer Blues"THE FABULOUS POODLES (1978)
3) "Lookin' Better Every Beer"THE STRAY CATS (1983)
HONORABLE MENTIONS: "Get Out Of Here, And Take Your Mother With You"FRED G. SANFORD (1977); "Personals Ad Blues"BRIAN HOLLAND (1994) [NOTE: I never got around to actually writing the bloody song!]

Feel free to submit yer own suggestions...

"Sweet Home Alabama"LYNYRD SKYNYRD (1974)  "Yeah, YeahMontgomery's got all the answers..."  Near the end of the song, Ronnie Van Zant utters this line, which I never understood until I looked it up on the 'Net.  I always thought he said something unintelligible, followed by "Goddamn!"

Ricardo Montalban, Star Trek II-The Wrath of Khan (1982)  In the scene where Khan first encounters Chekov, I coulda swore he called him "Jackoff"!

'Tis the season for the Salavatin' Army to dispatch their dreaded bell ringers in front of every other store again.  Couldn't they at least provide these poor schlubs with bells that actually ring instead of clanking like a busted chainsaw?!?  Pretty damn sad...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Sweet Bye And Bye

While attending the Colorado Avalanche hockey game last month, the music meister at the Pepsi Center in Denver played an old favorite of mine during the pregame warm-ups, "Fox On The Run" by Sweet, and it sounded, well, sweet!  I haven't done a band salute for a while, so here's an overdue tribute to one of the more underrated bands of the '70s.

Sweet [L-R in photo: guitarist Andy Scott, bassist Steve Priest, vocalist Brian Connolly and drummer Mick Tucker] only had five Top 40 hits in America, but there is much more to this band than "Fox", "Ballroom Blitz" and "Love Is Like Oxygen".  Before they cracked the Top 40 here in 1973 with "Little Willy", they'd already been quite the sensation on the glam scene across the big pond in England, with hits like "Funny Funny" and "Co-Co", the latter of which hit #2 in the British charts.  Sounding like a cross between The Monkees, Cheap Trick and The Who, "Little Willy" broke the band in the States, and over the next five years, they toured here and scored huge hits with "Blitz", "Fox" and 1978's "Love Is Like Oxygen".

Sadly, "Oxygen" was the beginning of the end for the band, as singer Brian Connolly became more and more unreliable as he sank into drug and alcohol abuse.  In fact, he recorded his vocals for the verses on "Oxygen" separately from the rest of the band, as Scott and Priest sang the choruses in another studio in another place.  Connolly succumbed to liver failure in February, 1997 at age 51.  Drummer Mick Tucker died of leukemia almost five years to the day later on Valentine's Day, 2002 at age 54.  BTW, there is an excellent documentary DVD on the band available on Netflix which features some great old footage from the '70s.

One of the funniest song parodies this side of Weird Al Yankovic you'll ever hear was done in the '80s by the Alterna-Rock band The Dead Milkmen during the intro of their "Bottomless Pit", lampooning "Ballroom Blitz":  "Are you ready Dave? (Uh-huh.), Malory? (O.K.), Joe? (Oh, I don't know...), Well alright fellas... Let's GOOOOOO!!!"

My All-Time Sweet Top 10:
10) "California Nights" (1978)  Sweet's last sniff of the Hot 100.  Ironically, singer Lesley Gore's last hit in 1967 was also titled "California Nights".
9) "Wig Wam Bam" (1972)  Not about hairpieces, but about the Glam scene that was very prevalent at the time.  I believe there's also a band out there now called Wig Wam Bam.
8) "Little Willy" (1973)  The band was still on Bell Recordshome of the Partridge Family and Tony Orlando & Dawnwhen this one came out.  They later hooked up with Capitol Records and became major playas.
7) "The Six Teens" (1974) Big hit over yonder that never really registered over here.  Not a bad song, either.
6) "Block Buster" (1973)  Glam Rock at its finest.  Best song ever featuring a siren apart from "Firehouse" by Kiss, REO Speedwagon's "Ridin' The Storm Out", R. Dean Taylor's "Indiana Wants Me" and Bloodrock's "D.O.A."...
5) "Love Is Like Oxygen" (1978)  Sweet meets Foreigner!  This song was a most welcome respite from all the Disco folderol of the time.
4) "Teenage Rampage" (1974)  Another Glam Rock anthem reminiscent of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" that urges the listener to "get yourself a constitution..."  Was very disappointed to hear this tune backing a Chevy truck commercial on TV a couple years ago.
3) "Action" (1975)  Quite possibly Sweet's heaviest tune, and a nice amalgam of synthesizer and guitar.  Song was later successfully covered by erstwhile Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens and his Atomic Playboys in 1989.
2) "Fox On The Run" (1975)  Another nice synth/guitar combo, and one of Connolly's best vocal performances.  Later covered by Girlschool in the mid-'80s.
1) "Ballroom Blitz" (1975)  Resistance is futile here.  Sweet's most famous songbassist Steve Priest provides the comic relief with lines like "she'll kill you with a wink of her eye!" while Connolly screams his orgasmic "OHHHHH YEAAAHHHH!!!"  I heartily concur...