Saturday, March 25, 2017

Chuck Berry (1926-2017) & Shows # 649 & # 650


Chuck Berry, a pioneer in rock music, passed away in March at the age of 90. He has been called the “Father of Rock n’ Roll” and is responsible for helping to lay the foundation for rock music. What set Chuck Berry’s music apart from others at the time was his ability to go into deep thought and mix his lyrical style with his musical ability and prowess. Mixing elements of country, western and blues, his music would often speed along with as the lyrics rested atop of the music, giving the listener a different point of view. When his first single “Maybellene” was released on Chess Records in 1955, it was a very different time. There was separation amongst black and white audiences and pop music was filled with standards that were covered by multiple artists. Not only did Berry inject his lyrics with more feeling and poetic elements than the standards that came before him, he also helped to shift gears in how rock music was made by writing his own songs. He was a musician, songwriter and performer. This combined with many other musicians from that time period, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, among others, helped to define what music could be.

Many of his songs were ripe with social commentary, but they were presented in a subtle way. For example, in “Memphis, Tennessee” Berry sings of a separated couple as he tries to reach his 6-year-old daughter via telephone. While this is a love song, it is a different type and it wasn’t the generic love song you would expect to hear at the time. “Johnny B Goode”, while now seen as a standard cover, was semi-autobiographical and deals with race, but not as the main focus of the song. Like many songs that seem simple in their musical dynamics, lyrically this song is also complex. Many of his songs deal with having a good time, cars, dancing, school, love, but are executed in a way that they rise above the music. This is part of what puts Chuck Berry in a different category from others at the time.

While Berry’s music was very influential and innovative, he himself was not without complexity. Berry had run-ins with the law. He went to prison several times. A lot of the situations he went through raised questions and were not without controversy. However, when it came to music, it was something that Chuck Berry understood. He pulled from his influences, Nat King Cole’s vocal style, T Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, Carl Hogan, Ray Charles, Charlie Christian and mixed it with elements of country western, jazz and blues for one universal thing. These things when combined with a song, whether it was “Johnny B Goode” or “Maybellene”, “Promised Land” or any other of his early numbers, we called it rock and roll. His music integrated American audiences, young and old and in popular culture. Called “The Eternal Teenager”, Berry performed his music with a youthful exuberance. It can even be heard in his voice on the single “Big Boys,” from his now final album, Chuck. Like the cars brought up in many of his songs, Chuck Berry often switched gears in song and in his career with a fiery intensity. He was also a showman with a wild rock and roll show, from his relentless, driving guitar solos to his signature duck walk. Berry also never had a dedicated backing band following 1955-1956. He would usually pick a band from local musicians in town prior to the show and this would make up his backing band for that particular show. From the opening moments of his first 1955 single “Maybellene”, to the countless live shows that he played throughout his career, Chuck Berry duck walked right into America’s hearts.

Show 650 (Chuck Berry Tribute Show):

1. Chuck Berry - Reelin' And Rockin' (Alternate Version)
2. Chuck Berry - Rock And Roll Music (Demo)
3. Chuck Berry - I Want To Be Your Driver
4. The Rolling Stones - Come On
5. The Rolling Stones - Around And Around
6. The Courtneys - Silver Velvet
7. The Courtneys - Minnesota
8. Skye Wallace - Stronghold
9. Dean Drouillard - Mid Sea Flood
10. Bo Diddley - Fireball
11. Of The Pack - Feel The Same
12. Century Palm - Inner Vision
13. AC/DC - School Days
14. The Kinks - Beautiful Delilah
15. The Sonics - Roll Over Beethoven
16. Chuck Berry - Sweet Little Rock n' Roller (Take 11A)
17. Chuck Berry - Viva Viva Rock n' Roll
18. Chuck Berry - 21 Blues
19. The Famines - Zero Sum
20. TV FREAKS - Don't Read The News
21. Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs - Talk 2 Her
22. Dany Laj & The Looks - Sweet Pretender
23. The Matinee - Figure It Out
24. The Rolling Stones - Carol
25. The MC5 - Back in the USA
26. Chuck Berry - Big Boys
27. Chuck Berry - Wee Wee Hours


To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for March 25.


Show 649 (Chuck Berry, T.Rex & The Velvet Underground):

1. Chuck Berry - Bio
2. Chuck Berry - Around And Around
3. Chuck Berry - Back In Memphis
4. The Routes - Thousand Forgotten Dreams
5. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Sleep Drifter
6. Cawama - Come Around
7. Specifics - 13
8. B.A. Johnston - I Need Donair Sauce
9. Cheap Trick - He's A Whore
10. Blank Square - Empty Head
11. Meatbodies - Scavenger
12. Tim Darcy - Tall Glass of Water
13. Temples - Certainly
14. Mick Futures - Mini Mag
15. T. Rex - Dandy In The Underworld
16. T. Rex - Teen Riot Structure
17. T. Rex - Celebrate Summer
18. The Velvet Underground - Femme Fatale (Alternate Version)
19. The Velvet Underground - I'm Waiting For The Man (Live - The Complete Matrix Tapes 1969)
20. The Feelies - Flag Days
21. Whoop-Szo - Another Show
22. Leonard Cohen - Leaving The Table
23. The Sadies - There Are No Words


To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for March 18.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Germ Free Adolescents & Shows # 647 & # 648


Like many bands that formed and created music in the UK in the late 70s, X-Ray Spex was influenced by the Sex Pistols. Formed by Poly Styrene (vocals) and Lora Logic (saxophone), Jak Airport (guitar), Paul Dean (bass) and B.P. Hurding on drums in 1976, X-Ray Spex shot out of the vortex of the 70s UK punk scene. They ended as a band shortly after the release of their full-length album, Germ Free Adolescents. Musically the band featured a sound influenced by 70s punk, but one that came off with a sound mixing elements of proto punk, glam and mod music. You can hear the influence of Steve Jones (Sex Pistols), Mick Jones (The Clash) and Mick Ronson (David Bowie), amongst other influences in the band’s make up. This sound was mixed in with saxophone and erratic high energy levels provided by lead singer and front woman, Poly Styrene. Lyrically, X-Ray Spex delved into many anti-commercial based themes that questioned Britain’s consumer based society at the time.

Germ Free Adolescents opens with the song “The Day The World Turned Day-Glo”. In between the chugging guitars and sleazy saxophones, Styrene sings of a world painted with and dominated by, synthetic products that glows in a haunting disdain. “Obsessed With You” features lyrics such as “You are just a concept/You are just a dream/You’re just a reflection of the new regime”, mixed in with a chorus that features lyrics that portray a love/hate relationship that can show commercial products as being disenchanting and romantic to some. “Identity” attacks with buzz saw guitars and soulful 50s saxophone parts and lyrics that rally for independence and finding yourself. The song can take on many forms, but also relates to the way women perceive themselves based on the “perfect” image that is broadcast by the mainstream media. The message in this song is one that still rings true today. “I Live Off You” features excellent R&B saxophone parts performed by Rudi Thomson. He joined the band after Lora Logic left the group shortly after the recording of the band’s first single Oh Bondage! Up Yours!/I Am A Cliché. The lyrics have an effective melody that drifts from melodic to high pitched. Lyrically the song portrays a chain of command of exploitation, whether it is by commercialism or by other means.

“Germ Free Adolescent” takes things down a bit as a more mid-tempo number with dominant bass, keyboards, drums and vocals. Styrene sings of toothpaste and a character obsessed with cleanliness, so much so that it appears this character that has a form of OCD that cannot wash off the advertisements that they hear on a daily basis. “Art-I-Ficial” features lyrics such as “I know I’m artificial/But don’t put the blame on me/I was reared with appliances in a consumer society”. In between the proto-punk guitar riffs, drum rolls and bouncy basslines, Styrene sings of a fakeness that is created by consumer society and one that is difficult to separate yourself from. “Warrior In Woolworths” drifts into T.Rex territory, “I Can’t Do Anything” features static sounding guitar, rolling basslines, wheezy saxophone lines and is notable for the lyrics “Freddy tried to strangle me with my plastic popper beads/But I hit him back with my pet rat”. This song, like many on Germ Free Adolescents is layered in multiple meanings. “I Can’t Do Anything” seems to be a cathartic song dealing with oppression.

“Plastic Bag” boasts heavy guitar riffs and speedy saxophone lines that drift in between the slower breakdowns of the song. This song, like many on the album, question the way society is and how people live within it. Poly Styrene could be saying here that her mind is “like a plastic bag”, it can be filled with anything and is often perceived as cheap and disposable. But, within this song and amongst the songs on Germ Free Adolescents, the lyrics cry for a search for satisfaction that is lost due to an alienation that separates us from our true potential. Heavy stuff at times, but it is executed in a way that it is not all bleak and the deeper meanings of Germ Free Adolescents sink below the surface of these songs, only resurface at differing points.

By 1980, X-Ray Spex split up and various members were on to other things. Although they reformed for another album, Conscious Consumer in 1995, the impact of their first album and of their first single and what some view as their finest moment, “Oh Bondage! Up Yours”, overshadows other points in the band’s history. Germ Free Adolescents questions, challenges, and brings up themes of commercialism, identity, oppression and gender roles in a way that is just as relevant today as it was in 1978. With Germ Free Adolescents, we learn that there are some things you just can’t wash off so easily.

(Note: This write-up refers to the 1991/2005 reissue track order of Germ Free Adolescents.)

Show 648 (International Women's Day Special):

1. X-Ray Spex - Oh Bondage! Up Yours! (Oh Bondage! Up Yours!/I Am A Cliche - 1977)
2. The Pebbles - The Pebbles Twist (The First Album - 1997)
3. Dorothy Berry - You Better Watch Out (You Better Watch Out/Ain't That Love - 1964)
4. The Ronettes - You Bet I Would (Silhouettes/You Bet I Would - 1965)
5. Dusty Springfield- Willie & Laura Mae Jones (Dusty In Memphis - 1969)
6. The Velvet Underground - Femme Fatale (Velvet Underground & Nico - 1967)
7. Sonic Youth - Shadow Of A Doubt (Evol - 1986)
8. The Luyas - Self Unemployed Human (Voicing - 2017)
9. Dream Whip - Beach Dreams (Dream Whip - 2017)
10. Mexican Knives - Smother (Mexican Knives - 2015)
11. The Highest Order - Hurry Down (Still Holding - 2016)
11. Sky Wallace - Blood Moon (Something Wicked - 2016)
12. Sleater-Kinney - Dig Me Out (Live In Paris - 2017)
13. White Lung - Take The Mirror (Sorry - 2012)
14. PJ Harvey Hardly - Wait (4 Track Demos - 1993)
15. X-Ray Spex - Identity (Germ Free Adolescents - 1977)
16. X-Ray Spex - Germ Free Adolescents (Germ Free Adolescents - 1977)
17. X-Ray Spex - Art-I-ficial (John Peel Session) (Germ Free Adolescents - 2005)
18. Kleenex "1978" (First Songs - 2016)
19. Liliput - Hitch Hike (First Songs - 2016)
20. Teenanger - Mild Survival (EPLP - 2014)
21. The Modernettes - Static (View From The Bottom - 1982)
22. The Zellots - Empty Victories (Demo - 1980)
23. The New Pornographers - All For Swinging You Around (Electric Version - 2003)
24. Lost Patrol - See Me Now The (Lost Patrol - 1988)
25. The Gories - Stranded (I Know You Fine But How You Doin - 1990)
26. Demolition Doll Rods - Doo Walka-Walka (Tasty - 1997)
27. The Jackets - Freak Out (Way Out - 2012)
28. The Beat Happening - Noise (You Turn Me On - 1992)
29. Destroy All Monsters - Nobody Knows (What Do I Get/Nobody Knows - 1979)

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for March 11.


Show 647 (Oblivians, Mummies & More):

1. The Oblivians - Hey Mama, Look At Sis
2. The Oblivians - Blew My Cool
3. The Mummies - Test Drive
4. The Mummies - Stronger Than Dirt
5. Ty Segall - Thank You Mr. K
6. Vagabon - Minneapolis
7. Priests - JJ
8. Dream Whip - Hookser Du
9. Century Palm - New Creation
10. Stevie Moore & Jason Falkner - Stamps
11. The Birthday Party - Swampland Mutiny
12. Pissed Jeans - Have You Ever Been Furniture
13. Culture - I'm Not Ashamed
14. Jack Lee - Come Back And Stay
15. John Wesley Coleman III - Hang Tight
16. The Sadies - Another Season Again
17. The Sadies - The Noise Museum
18. The O-L West - Afterthought No. 3
19. Old 97's - Nobody
20. 9th Wave = Full Throttle
21. No Aloha - Trips
22. All Hands On Jane - Kitty City
23. Film Jacket 35 - Chocked On My Ego
24. Paul Jacobs - Quarter To Eleven
25. Cawama - Planet Of The Sharks
26. The Cheetahs - Magic Dollar
27. The Replacements - Whole Foods Blues (Live Hollywood Paladium April 16 2015)
28. Bash & Pop - Anything Could Happen
29. The I Don't Cares - Whole Lotta Nothin'
30. Tobin Sprout - I Fall You Fall

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for March 4.

Monday, March 06, 2017

An Interview With Don Pyle of Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet & Show # 646


At some point in the mid-90s, I have a memory of watching television. It was later at night and the show, which had a strange and edgy comedy style was on CBC television. This show was The Kids In The Hall. Aside from the KITH comedy stylings, I remember experiencing the music on this show. I later found out that an instrumental rock band did the music for this show from Canada called Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet. The theme song of this show was another story. “Having An Average Weekend” has its own effect within the context of the show. It has a nostalgic feeling. It tapped into a sense of boredom and a sense of excitement, despite being recorded in 1985 way before the KITH TV show. Perhaps it was the style of bass playing on the song or the way the guitar weaved in-between the drums and bass. Whatever it was, it worked well.

Shadowy Men On A Shadow Planet got their start in Calgary. The band had its originals in punk. Both bassist Reid Diamond and guitarist Brian Connelly were in a band called Buick McKane. They reconnected with future drummer Don Pyle after moving to Toronto and played briefly in his Toronto punk act, Crash Kills Five. This band split in 1981 after releasing the What Do You Do At Night? EP. It’s also interesting to note that Don was the singer in this band and when Pyle, Diamond and Connelly started playing together as a band, Don hadn’t really played drums before. Regardless, the band started playing as an instrumental rock band after their intended singer stopped playing with them. With neither member wanting to take the lead vocal role, the band adapted, continuing as a three-piece and started playing instrumentally. Their sound is often hard to describe since they combined multiple styles at once to keep things interesting. However, in the process the chemistry of the band created something unplanned and totally unique.

The band adopted a DIY aesthetic and released several singles and EPs starting with 1985’s appropriately titled, Love Without Words EP. The band was also featured on numerous compilation albums, which in part helped them connect to a burgeoning underground network of independent music during the mid-80s/early 90s time period. The band toured extensively in North America and were one of the first Canadian bands to record for BBC DJ John Peel’s radio program. Their first album, Savvy Show Stoppers was itself a compilation album. Compiled of early singles from the band, it was originally released in 1988 by Glass Records in the UK. The band’s next album, Dim The Lights Chill The Ham was released in 1991 via Cargo Records. This was the band’s first proper album (since Savvy Show Stoppers was a collection of earlier singles). It was produced by Coyote Silvers and showed the Shadowy Men stepping out from the shadow cast by reviewers claiming that they were just a surf band. This album brought forth, a collection of quirky song titles and a potent mixture of styles.

In 1993, the band released Sport Fishin’: The Lure of the Bait, The Luck of the Bait, an album recorded by Steve Albini in Chicago. This would wind up being the last full-length album from Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet.  This album found the band beefing up their production, with a heavier sound and combining elements of surf, jazz, rock and western-styled music, in addition to their other influences. The band split in 1996 and the various members went on to perform in other groups/projects. Among them were Atomic 7 and Phonocomb (a band that also featured Dallas Good of The Sadies). In 2001, bassist Reid Diamond passed away after a battle with cancer. In 2012, Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet reunited to celebrate the reissue of their 1988 album, Savvy Show Stoppers. Dallas Good filled in for Reid Diamond on bass. The band continues to play live sporadically. Yep Roc Records re-issued all three of Shadowy Men On A Shadow Planet’s albums in 2016, which followed the 2016 box set, Oh, I Guess We’re A Fucking Surf Band After All…

What Wave magazine featured an early article on the band in 1986: “Their trebly, over reverbed riffs may be borrowed from early 60's surf bands, but the delivery certainly is not. No, the songs are aggressive, just meat on the bones delivery that is influenced by the late 70's punk movement.” Regardless of how you want to describe them, this instrumental rock band is still being talked about more than thirty years after their formation. Their music is still like a great late night TV discovery. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet found clarity among fans in the static waves of the mid 80s/early 90s and today still find themselves drifting through the digital waves of modern music with that same sense of nostalgia, excitement and chemistry that made us love them in the first place.

Check out my interview with Don Pyle here:



An Instrumental Playlist:

1. La Luz - Phantom Feelings
2. The Gories - Nautiloid Reef (Live on CJAM 1989)
3. The Challengers - Red River Rock

SURFPHONY OF DERSTRUCTION 2000 SEGMENT WITH DERK BRIGANTE

4. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Tired Of Waking Up Tired
5. The Ramblin' Ambassadors - Standoff At Calf Robe Bridge
6. Stories From Shamehill - Kahuna Haha
7. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Egypt Texas
8. The Tsunamibots - Robots Improving Robots
9. Toxic Mutants - Surf Machine


10. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Big Saxophone Lie
11. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Big Baby

DON PYLE INTERVIEW PT 1

12. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Three Piece Suit
13. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Hunter S. Thompson's Younger Brother

DON PYLE INTERVIEW PT 2

14. Phono-comb - The Crass and The Switchblade
19. The Sadies - Clam Chowder
16. The Pistolrays - Long Way From Silver City
17. Minutemen - Cohesion
18. The 427's - Tijuana Sunset
19. The Cramps - I’m Cramped (Original Mix)
20. The Rumblers - Boss
21. The Bell Peppers - Doin’ The Moon Freak

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for February 25.