Thursday, February 25, 2010

needles, pins. more needles

tales from the ripped, y'hear ?

"The word punk goes back to the 1960's... I remember getting copies of NME in the summer of '75 and they were calling AC/DC, the Bay City Rollers and Eddie and the Hot Rods punk rock. I remember seeing a big article on Eddie and the Hot Rods saying, 'Here Comes Punk', but they weren't punk rock then, they were doing 'Woolly Bully'. Here in the States in 1975, Creem magazine would call anything remotely hard 'punk' and that included Alice Cooper, the MC5 and the Dictators."

- John Holmstrom, "Punk. A life Apart", Stephen Colgrave & Chris Sullivan, 2001.

"Lester had a lot of problems. He grew up a 7th Day Adventist, and replaced that with rock and roll. He was always talking at you, like a preacher. I brought Lester to see the Ramones, we would drag him out of the house kicking and screaming. He was a real curmudgeon, and it got boring, so we started saying things to piss him off, and we would break into his house and steal beer...

It was like being with somebody's father. But I liked Lester anyway. He really could write about rock and roll. He got a lot of things wrong, he was too politically correct, but I liked him. Creem magazine was responsible for turning a lot of people on to Iggy and the MC5. Lester turned a lot of people on to a lot of stuff. I think John even read about the Dictators in Creem. Lester got bitter though."

- Legs McNeil, interview with Helen Wilson, Glorious Noise, 2002.

"The name 'punk' came from me. John [Holmstrom] wanted to call the magazine Teenage News, which I thought was a stupid title. Years later, I found out it was from this unreleased New York Dolls' song. I didn't know this at the time. I just thought he was being stupid."

- Legs McNeil, "Punk. A life Apart", Stephen Colgrave & Chris Sullivan, 2001.
Arranged and produced by David Bowie.

Well. It might be from James Cagney I heard it first . Or even Edmond O' Brian. Who gives a shit. Maybe Lenny Kaye used it first to reference The Standells. Or Dave Marsh doing the same with ? and the Mysterians.

It sure as f@ck wasn't Legs McNeil.

"All The Young Dudes" was allegedly written off the cuff by David Bowie for Ian Hunter. After Mott The Hoople rejected "Suffragette City". While Mott's version may lack the shanked razor edge Mick Ronson provided on Bowie's own demo recorded after the fact, I still think Ian Hunter's vocal here ranks as the finest out the corner of the mouth tirade I've heard this side of John Winston Lennon.

With or without the gum.

Thanks to The Gazzetteer for the link to the Legs interview and the nudge. And Jonathan Richman apropos of nothing less than a bee in the ear.

MOTT THE HOOPLE: ALL THE YOUNG DUDES from "All The Young Dudes b/w One Of the Boys" 45 (CBS) 1972 (UK)


Big B said...

One of those great songs that was love at first listen. Never knew the story of the rejection of "Suffragette City". I think that was a win-win for all parties.

ib said...

Yeah. One of Bowie's finest lyrics and arrangements. But I am glad he gave it to Mott The Hoople.

"Suffragette City" I can take or leave.

Mott's version of "Sweet Jane" from the LP is also fine. But not so fine as "Dudes". This was a huge hit in the UK and - less so - in Canada. There is no mention (on Wiki at least) that it made the US Billboard Charts in 1972. Or that it was released there as a 45.

Surely not ?

Denier said...

Actually Sufragette would appear to fit in better with Mott than a ballad like Dudes. I think the Mott version is Sweet Jane is definitive, because I heard that one first, just like I knew Lou solo way before I knew anything about VU, just based on my older bro's terrific LP collection at the time, which I can still see arrayed before me: Mott, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Kinks, Dylan, Bowie, T. Rex, Lennon, Slade, Stones, Byrds, David Peel, Doors. And he wasn't the "I'm a collector don't smudge my albums" type, either, but let me play whatever whenever I wanted.

Is it any wonder I have such superior taste in music considering we shared a room for my first 15 years?!

ib said...

It's a clean toss of the coin for me as to which is the better version of "Sweet Jane": the jangly studio mix from "Loaded" or the live version from the live in '69 double LP; but I agree with you that the 'definitive' version is often whichever one you hear first.

I fell in love with the version of "Cortez The Killer" from "Live Rust" before I even heard the original "Zuma" take, for example, but seldom would I rate a cover above the original. I'm racking my brain to think of notable exceptions. Well. Johnny Cash pulled it off on the Rick Rubin series, I suppose, with a welter of songs. And I've always preferred The Damned's cover of "Help".

Actually. I would opt for the Cowboy Junkies' cover of "Sweet Jane" before MTH.

I doubt Mr. Beer & Hockey would agree.

Denier said...

Sticking by my Mott version, it just defines Rock and Roll for me in so many ways. Yer right about those late Cash albums, although I think had Johnny lived a few more years Rubin would have had him covering Lada Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, Taylor Swift and other modern abominations. A little oversaturation there toward the end.

I'll give you a few more off the top of my head where for me the student exceeds the teacher: Wedding Present's version Go-Between's Cattle and Cane. I've got another one that borders on the blasphemic if that's not a word it should be: Hendrix's Monterey Pop version of Like a Rolling Stone is beyond description. Sex Pistols' rendition of Stepping Stone annihilates Monkees', and that's saying something cause the original is killer in its own right. Byrds took a lot of Dylan songs and reinvented them, if not surpassed them. The 2nd wave British Ska bands sure could pick some great songs to cover, couldn't they? What a better world it is for their efforts! And I was just talking on my blog about recently diseased Dale Hawkins' version of Suzy Q -- which the Stones did and then later Creedence Clearwater really put their own stamp on it. And just thought of Pavement's sterling version of Echo's Killing Moon.

Denier said...

Another strange one for me was the song Walking on the Water that I believe kicks off Blank Generation. Again, didn't know that was a CCR cover till much, much later -- which was a cover itself of CCR's forerunners The Golliwogs! But it's hard for me not to prefer the Richard Hell version because of Quine's just demented playing. Good topic.

ib said...

Good calls, all.

Paticularly with regard to Jimi.

The Byrds, my god, I had forgotten about entirely. It's a close tie. With those Dylan originals.

Suzi Q, too, I am tempted to agree with; the CCR version, certainly. In my brain, it's the Rolling Stones what did the definite version, so that just goes to prove a point.

The Pistols' cover of Stepping Stone is another given. You're not wrong. On either count.

Disagree entirely on the 2nd wave of Ska, though. with the exception of " You're Wondering Now".

Still... Chalk one up.

ib said...

"Walking On Water" was an odd choice for The Voidoids to cover, true. Until one recalls Hell's home state.

But then. In spite of Quine, the CCR 'original' blows it out the bath tub.

Denier said...

It's funny, because I just thought songs like the amazing Gangsters, Do the Dog and Message to Rudy were originals. I was shocked to learn they weren't later, and now I've heard the originals. I don't think there's a hard and fast rule where the original always prevails, it's case by case for me.

That said, I am shocked I didn't get you on Walking on the Water, given what a huge Quine-ophile you've said you are!

Now what about Gloria? Patti or the original Them? I'm going Patti on this one.

Another mind-blowing one for me was finding out the Animals Don't Let me Be Misunderstood was a Nina Simone cover -- that still will probably never sink all the way since I found out so much later. And of course House of the Rising Sun, as much as I respect Traditional as a songwriter, man, the Animals' version holds almost canonical status in my early Rock indoctrination; I think I got chills every time I heard those first guitar chords coming out of the radio -- and still do to this day... really all of those great early Animals hits.

It's the kind of debate built for the Internet, ib, because the examples are almost endless; the history of cover songs is the history of pop music -- reinterpretation being the key to reinvention.

Besides, I'm stuck here in a storm almost biblical in its length, with something like 36 straight hours of mixed sleet, rain and snow set to hit the whole Eastern Seaboard. I've got literally nowhere to go until at least tomorrow morning, and it's like 4:30 now. I just finished off the last of my Chinese takeout, and have just enough food in the house to make it comfortably till I go go out again for fresh provisions. We're, oh, about 8 hours into this, and as I look out the window, it ain't looking too pretty. Even your Winter Wonderland types are cursing this nasty slop. Cheers.

anto said...

red & the black - minutemen/later mike watt bands
another mike watt 'cover' is his version of 'we are time' by the pop group. it would rouse yer soul.
agree with ib about sweet jane but as your all implying conext and setting plays a huge part. i remember years back a few buds playing celebrated summer and while it couldn't touch the majesty of the original it meant so much (mawkish yank type bollox there but hell i said it).
talking of nina s - her just like tom thumbs blues while difficult to put ahead of the original brings a tear to a glass eye

RossK said...

In the end, if not the always the beginning, it's all about the songs.

Which is something, I think that Lester always knew and recognized for what it really was.

Which is why Mr. McNeil and his kink should get absolutely no credit whatsoever.

In my opinion at least.

And me, if I was was forced to pick a Junkies tune it would be 'Powderfinger'.

And I don't even know why.

I just would.

Kinghell post ib - thanks


Nazz Nomad said...

First version I heard, knew and loved of Sweet Jane was on the live "Rock n Roll Animal" Lou Reed elpee, complete with the extended intro. I was shocked when I later heard the "pretty" version on "loaded".

The Damned's version of "Lookin' At You" was a favorite long before I ever even heard of the Mc5 as well.

That gives me a great idea for a posting:
"Remakes of songs that were better then the originals".

But the ground rules are that the original version could not be obscure (like, for example, most of the stuff The Cramps or Specials covered). But, the Beatles version of Chuck Berry's "Rock N Roll Music" WOULD count (since it was well known before the moptops covered it)

You guys want to put together a co-op cross the pond/states/rivers/universe "top ten"? anyone with a blog can participate... we can post em all on our respective sites let's say next Thursday?

whaddya say, my brudders?

ib said...


We have had much the same mix here of driving wet snow and cutting winds. It has momentarily cleard this morning, but we are used to the calm before the shitstorm.

Definitely Them. One of my favourite 45s ever. The Patti Smith cover is immense though. Almost a different song entirely. Oh. And THIS is blasphemy: I like the Doors' take on it too.

ib said...

ib said...

The Minutemen, for some reason, are a band I've never really warmed to. Could be I've never given them enough of a chance.

The Pop Group were pretty out there. For a short while.

ib said...

Ross K:

Lester was a shambling giant. In every sense. The only thing that McNeil gets right is that Lester Bangs had an unshakeable faith in rock n' roll.

And Jazz. And whatever piece of good shit landed on his turntable.

I can't see Lester Bangs writing a piece on Gene Loves Jezebel. But then, the telephone stopped ringing a long time before.

I see people like Legs McNeil every time my kids switch the channel to American Idol. I see them on Donald Trump's "The Apprentice".

In fact. I don't see much of a difference between Legs McNeil and Jon Bon Jovi.

Oh. "Powderfinger" is a great song.

My friend bought "Rust Never Sleeps" ahead of me. It was on heavy rotation alongside the Sex Pistols and Bob Dylan as we drank our way through the mornings and into the afternoon.

ib said...


Sounds like a reasonable venture, brudda.

Let's kick it off next Thursday and see who else wants to run with it. For the hell of it.

Who knows? It just might have some legs.

anto said...

Well I forgot one which might stir it up but be a reasonable point of departure for a covers venture - CCRs version of Heard it thur' grapevine. It would be a hard comment to say its 'better' than original but fulfils the criteria of taking a brilliant tune, applying your own schwang(is that a word? it should be) to it and coming up with a brilliant piece of music without pissing on original. the perfect tune to put on when you 3 js into a 7 j evening

Anonymous said...

auto: The Slits cover Grapevine as well and make it their own; really dig that cover, but when I saw 'em here a few years back they avoided that song. My bud and I saw Ari after the show and pestered her about it.

Nazz, speaking of Beatles covers, they had some choice ones while starting out. Love their Baby It's You borrowed from the Shirelles: just timeless. And now only their Rock and roll Music but Roll Over Beethoven holds its own with old Chuck, and what's saying something.

Beat Farmers do a real nice job with Powderfinger as well, as if you can fuck that up. Ever hear the Feelies do Neil's Barstool Blues? Worth checking it out. And ib, you like Zuma: Wedding Present on their Hit Parade series does a scorching Don't Cry No Tears. I think it if I ever did an MP3 blog, it would be one of those Cover jobs. Just so much material.


Anto said...

for all those who love powderfinger and may not have heard it, N Young recorded a stunnign solo version of the thing on a demo pre-Rust. I got ot offa the Aquarium Drunkard webiste last year. I presume its on the box set that he released last year that cost around 300 notes. If ever a tune gave off a smell this version does. And that would be the smell of a man, sitting at home burning a few working thru the agony of creation. its fucking mindblowing.

Denier said...

Aquarium Drunkard has posted some amazing Neil over the years, Chrome Dreams as well as live stuff. Got it all.

RossK said...

anto and The Warden--

Sounds like the real thing.

Thus, I will hunt it down, burn it, and then meld it with all the other versions rattling 'round in my head.



Anonymous said...

Ah, the covers!! A great theme for endless bandwith use! But some guidelines may be imposed: when do a cover exists being a cover: like G-Corps extremely well produced versions of reggae classics: covers, versions or remixes? Well, leaving this to the purists, here's an alltime personal great: The Damned: Looking at you, was a favorite song from a favorite album - until I found this MC5 original from 1970:
It cant't get any better……..
Sorry, got to split, but Hendrix' Gloria is way up there. Cortez the Killer with Build to Spill (?) live, clocking in at 15 minutes?
Still Anonymous

ib said...

Anto & The Warden:

You're both right about The Slits and CCR's cover of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine". And I don't even like the original.

Still Anonymous:

That Built To Spill cover of "Cortez" is pretty good stuff. Thanks for the reminder.

Nazz Nomad said...

Leaster Bangs wrote a great thing on Punk Rock 'round 1978 or so linking La Bamba thru Louie Louie thru Gloria thru Wild Thing thru No Fun thru Blitzkrieg Bop. I actually nicked it for a term paper once.

Yeah, that Mc5 "Lookin' AT You" vid is the shizznat all right. I love those old performance clips of them.