Your crusty chronicler is wildly waxing nostalgic yet again. Having seen lots of young’uns in the L.A. area wearing vintage rock band t-shirts, it seemed a good idea to educate these kids about the assorted artists advertised across their chests. With the number of classic rock stations surviving in Los Angeles as well as all the remakes by popular artists, sampling and cover versions on hit shows like Glee it seemed like a good idea.
Hence this series: “Retro Rock: Do You Remember?” Here your favorite record reviewer lists and describes actual songs (on 45s/singles) personally purchased over the years. The songs here are presented in the order in which they were acquired not the order in which they were actually released. (So read on and by all means leave a comment if YOU remember any of these tunes!)
NOTE: (This edition of the series includes singles received free while attending Penn State in the 1980s. Most are from one company—Ralph Records—so they were set aside for inclusion after going through all the singles actually purchased. These were all records actually reviewed in various publications including but not limited to The Ogontz Campus News.)
“Makin’ Out”—Smyle: Your crusty chronicler found this squeezed between a couple other 45s. It was a floppy vinyl single that was produced by E.C. Publications and put out by Mad magazine. (Technically, it’s not a 45 since it is played at a lower speed setting.) More recently re-released on CD, it dates back to 1978 and laments the lead singer’s inability to get any despite the fact that all his pop culture heroes are “makin’ out” all the lead singer is “makin’ out from all this makin’ out is that everyone’s makin’ out but” him. It’s sophomoric and silly and the music is somewhere between basic and bad. Still, It’s vaguely funny and while it was no Lennon-McCartney composition the pop culture references hold up surprisingly well thanks to the fact that today the industry simply recycles TV shows and movies from back then.
“The Model”—Snakefinger: This was a 1980 single from Phillip “Snakefinger” Lithman who died in 1987. He was a frequent collaborator of The Residents. (Your rascally writer first wrote about The Residents in his high school newspaper The Arrowhead sometime during the 1978-1979 school year.) While he never received the acclaim due his talent, Snakefinger did receive a write-up in Rolling Stone after his death. He would take something normal and twist it just enough to make it strange or different. He was, perhaps, a bit ahead of his time. The song is essentially a clever cover of an old Kraftwerk tune.
“Dark Companion”—Tuxedomoon: This one also dates back to 1980. (A well-worn copy of this single fetches at least 20 bucks on e-bay.) It’s very post-punk and one can still find the single as well as a more recent “greatest hits” release that includes the song online. The band was very artistic and for some reason did not include this song on their premiere platter Half Mute. This was the California-based band’s fourth single.
“O Type”–MX-80 Sound—This, too, is from 1980. It is sometimes listed as “O Type – The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”. The piece was supposed to be the soundtrack for a film. It’s broken down into two parts—one on each side of the 45. Their previous record was perhaps more accessible than this single but then again this was meant to be part of a motion picture not everyday listening. This group was yet another California-based experimental, alternative band discussed in another edition of this series. This is yet another single that many people knew little about and yet today it’s fetching about 20 bucks to purchase it on e-bay.
“The Man In The Dark Sedan”—Snakefinger: This, too, was released in 1980. It was from Snakefinger’s Greener Postures album. Both this single and the above single are credited as having been produced with The Residents. Here Snakefinger blends musical genres and includes a dub bass, ska guitar and a driving coconut “horse” sound vaguely akin to that employed by Monty Python. Careful listeners may note the punk roots of the piece.
Do YOU remember any of these songs? If so, what are YOUR memories of these tunes? Let your favorite record reviewer know if any of this struck a chord with you!
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.