Category Archives: music

Saint Etienne – A Glimpse Of Stocking

Each year, radio stations bombard us with the same lame Christmas tracks, November through Christmas. Today, Rooms with Brittle Views compiled a list of Christmas – Songs To Save Your Sanity, and The Metro wrote an article called It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas that discusses how radio stations are playing Christmas songs earlier and earlier each year. But not all is grim.

Saint Etienne have a Fan Club called Lover’s Unite that has released exclusive CDs for over a decade now, and they have always been top quality, and highly collectible as well. But as our beloved band seem to be winding down after all their records received expanded edition reissues, fans wondered if there would be new stunning Fan Club releases. A Glipse of Stocking is that stunning release.

Some labels have put out imaginative and original Christmas compilations for years. Madrid’s Siesta Records have released memorable records for 20 years. In 1997 they released Christmas Single #1 from Free Design, and a year later, Christmas Single #2. In 2002 they released the compilation fantasÍa de navidad. All these releases contained magic, and would be hard to hate, no matter what your taste in music normally sought out. Similarly, Welsh Ramones-channelling all-girl band band Helen Love released the single-sided, etched sleeve of Merry Christmas I Don't Wanna FightMerry Christmas I Don’t Wanna Fight 7inch in 2002. But to me, the king of Christmas compilations will always be The World In Winter, a comp put together by Mike Alway for his El Records.

cover of The World In Winter‘The World In Winter’ seemed to get everything right. It was a CD you could listen to, not just play select holiday tracks from. Not to say all “select Holiday tracks from” CDs are bad…. Peter Katis runs Tarquin Records in Greenwich CT. The label is named after his son. Peter plays in The Zambonis, and other bands as well. He put together the Gold Standard as far as Holiday CDs you play a single track or so from, The Tarquin Records All Star Holiday Extravaganza!. Not only does this CD have some AMAZING Christmas songs, such as ‘R2D2 We Wish You A Merry Crhistmas,’ ‘Flexible Flyer’ and ‘Snowflakes,’ but it also covers many other holidays including Groundhog Day (‘I Am The Ground Hog (And It’s My Day)’), Halloween (‘Mischief Day!’ and ‘Halloween’), and others. Check this CD out!

cover of Tarquin Holiday CDSaint Etienne have made a welcomed entry into this market with A Glimpse Of Stocking. The CD has 15 tracks. ‘Gonna Have A Party’, ‘Welcome Home’, ‘Snowbound On The Southbank’, ‘Fireside Favourite’, ‘No Cure For The Common Christmas’, ‘Wintertime Love’ and ‘Unwrap Me’ are exclusive to this record, the rest were released on long out-of-print Fan Club records from the past.

The CD starts off with the italo disco sounding ‘Gonna Have A Party’, which uses auto-tune on Sarah Cracknell’s voice, which is slightly disconcerting, but works well in the context.

’21st Century Christmas’ has verses sung in a talking style similar to ‘Schoolgirl Psychedelia’ by Fantastic Everlasting Gobstopper, from The World In Winter comp, though the chorus and bridge as smooth-as-silk Saint Etienne butter.

‘Driving Home For Christmas’ incorporates elements of the tune from Wham’s 1984 track Last Christmas in a subtle way, making a song that is both instantly familiar and something new.

‘Welcome Home’ has a familiar Saint Etienne sound. ‘Snowbound On The Southbank’ is a short instrumental with guitar and flute, sounding like a walk at night while it is snowing. ‘My Christmas Prayer’ has Sarah crooning over a programmed drum track in a 50’s reverb style. ‘I Don’t Intend To Spend Christmas Without You’ was also covered by Loveletter (The King Of Luxembourg) on The World Of Winter. ‘Come On Christmas’ sounds like ? & the Mysterians with the music of ‘Louie Louie.’

‘Through The Winter’ has a familiar Saint Etienne sound. ‘I Was Born On Christmas Day’ is a highlight, a disco styled upbeat winner, and a classic Saint Etienne original. ‘I Was Born On Christmas Day’ features guest vocalist, Tim Burgess, of The Charlatans. Saint Etienne band member Bob Stanley was actually born on Christmas Day.

‘Fireside Favourite’ is a short wordless vocal track with accordion. ‘No Cure For The Common Christmas’ is another highlight, a euro-disco sounding Saint Etienne original sharing kin with ‘Like a Motorway,’ and baring more than a passing resemblance to the vocal sound of Sarah Nixey in Luke Haines band Black Box Recorder. ‘Wintertime Love’ is a Doors cover! It has a whimsical sound, and is a very interesting addition to the amazing breadth of Saint Etienne’s discography. ‘Unwrap Me’ is a Saint Etienne original that reminds me of Marilyn Monrow in the breaty sexiness of the vocal. The music has upright bass, brushed drums, piano and a harmonica. The disc closes with ‘Snow,’ a Rany Newman track popularized by Claudine Longet, that is reverent and fantastic in its own right. What a record!

Most Favorite track: 21st Century Christmas
Other faves: Gonna Have A Party, I Was Born On Christmas Day, No Cure For The Common Christmas, Wintertime Love, Unwrap Me, Snow

  1. Gonna Have A Party
  2. 21st Century Christmas
  3. Driving Home For Christmas
  4. Welcome Home
  5. Snowbound On The Southbank
  6. My Christmas Prayer
  7. I Don’t Intend To Spend Christmas Without You
  8. Come On Christmas
  9. Through The Winter
  10. I Was Born On Christmas Day
  11. Fireside Favourite
  12. No Cure For The Common Christmas
  13. Wintertime Love
  14. Unwrap Me
  15. Snow

La Peste & Jan Crocker’s DVD

Cover of Jan Crocker's La Peste DVDDo you know the Boston punk band La Peste? Maybe you know their signature song, ‘Better Off Dead.’ Maybe you know the track without knowing it (Death From Above 1979 did a cover of Better Off Dead on their 2005 Vice Records CD Romance Bloody Romance).

La Peste were a late first-wave trio from Boston that took the early jangle of The Jam, but replaced the Mod affectations with punk attitude. They could have almost been seen as a precursor to The Wipers. Like all the best bands throughout time, every member was a crucial ingredient with a distinct contribution. One of the amazing thengs about La Peste is that a band that only put out one 7inch could have left behind such a vast legacy.

Boston Groupie News did an interview with Jan Crocker about this DVD. In it he says that he is working on a DVD for the second incarnation of the band, La Peste V2.0, when Ian Kalinosky replaced Peter Dayton as the frontman lead vocalist/guitarist. That period is a lot more pop-oriented than the original lineup. La Peste V2.0 had the track ‘Lease on Life’ on a Modern Methods LP compilation (Modern Method was Newbury Comics’ first record label). ‘Lease on Life’ holds up as one of the best La Peste tracks. Smasheasy released a CD of La Peste V2.0 that is well worth buying.

The two members that persisted throughout were Mark Andreasson (aka Mark Karl) and Roger Tripp. Sadly, Roger was killed on New Years Eve in 1993 when his car collided with a drunk driver. Mark Andreasson is still a Boston resident where he runs an environmental graphics firm. Roger played like Kieth Moon, and had high pitched background vocals like Roger Meadows-Taylor of Queen (well, not THAT high pitched…).

Peter Dayton had a rough-edged voice and guitar style that brought personality to every La Peste song he played, raising them above the bar of punk rock proliferation. I never met him and don’t know why he left the band, but the first I heard of La Peste was as the band Peter played in before releasing his ‘Skin Tight’ 12inch. Around 2000, Smasheasy released a CD called ‘Peter Dayton’ which had demos from 1980-82. Responding to one somewhat lackluster review, Peter said “you need to review the real music I made before skinny ties and keyboards ruined everything.” This statement implies he disliked the V2.0 version of the band, which was skinny ties personified. He pointed to the Dionysus CD Better Off La Peste. Dionysus also reissued the sole La Peste 7inch Better Off Dead b/w Black.

It is amazing that this band, that only released one single, still has so many followers around the world. Take a look at the La Peste fan club page on Facebook and you will see contributions from all over, all equally passionate. But all the info above is easily findable in the Cloud without relevation. Here is the story of my interest in La Peste.

I grew up in Long Island NY. In my teens, before and after playing in the glitter band Crystal Fox with toughies from Seldon, I played with Craig Kutner and Martin Street in Mr. Ramen & the Good Computers, and later, The Subjects. After college, Craig moved up to Boston. Coming back to visit once, he brought the Peter Dayton 12inch ‘Skin Tight’ and played it for me. Craig started playing with Roger Tripp in Stickball. Stickball exemplified the incestuous nature of Boston bands, comprising a post-Unnatural Axe Richie Parsons and Frank Dehler, and adding Kurt Henry.

My first contact with Mark Andreasson was at the company he and Craig founded, where I worked when I first moved to Boston in 1982. Mark was a fellow bass player, and was very likeable. I heard stories that he had drilled his bass into a wall to symbolize the end of his connection to music, and that image stayed with me for years, coming to mind a decade later when as a DJ at WHRB Morgan Andrews taught me “If you love a band, you’ve got to destroy it,” referring to my sadness that Mark Erdody’s band Kudgel had called it quits. While that lesson seems crazy, I reflected on how The Jam had broken up at their peak, and I thought of Mark’s successful break from music, with his bass drilled into a wall.

Still at WHRB, in 1994 I did a La Peste Orgy. WHRB has a long-running tradition of airing marathon single artist/label/scene radio shows between semesters. They are kind of like individual DJ’s thesis’. I did 8 hour Orgies on Lydia Lunch, Wayne County, Willy Alexander and (as part of the Rock of Scotland Orgy), Josef K. For the La Peste Orgy, I was joined my Mark Andreasson, who agreed to return to the music he had left behind as a tribute to his recently departed friend and drummer Roger Tripp, senselessly killed by a drunk driver on New Year’s Eve. The Orgy was the first time I was aware of just how many tapes were out there containing really good La Peste Material.

In 2000, while playing a La Peste song on my WZBC show Gulls Window Circus, I received a call from someone who had the originals of many of the tapes I had received as cassettes during the Orgy. In a Deep Throat styled clandestine meeting, I was to meet him in a park in Brookline to get three CDRs of the tapes. I was not to say his name if I played them on air, and it was all a little scary and shady. The CDRs were fantastic, and eventually as time moved on, he worked out agreements with all involved, and this material became the basis for the Dionysus CD and an Italian LP Better Off Dead on Italian label Rave Up Records. I still have never seen that LP. The identity of this Deep Throat? Jordan Krantz, of Maine punk band Big Meat Hammer. Every La Peste fan owes him an incredible debt for releasing this material to the wild.

About the DVD, Jan Crocker said “I worked on this on and off for the better part of a year and I’m really happy with the results. I think it really captures the energy of the band and of the time.” You can get the DVD content and ordering information here. There are also sample video clips. The DVD features a full show filmed in Boston 1979, Six Additional Videos, and the Audio_Pix Gallery containing another six clips. Twenty videos total with the following songs:

  1. Don’t Want to Die in My Sleep Tonight
  2. Truth
  3. Please Love Sex
  4. Whites of Your Eyes
  5. I Don’t know Right from Wrong
  6. Better Off Dead
  7. Acid Test
  8. Blood
  9. Color Scheme
  10. Kill Me Now
  11. Spy Master
  12. You’re Too Cute
  13. Black
  14. Hold on to Love
  15. Kindness Invites Abuse
  16. Let Me Sleep
  17. Pop Rock Polls
  18. Skin tight

Karen Carpenter solo album, and Little Girl Blue book

I was never a fan of The Carpenters. Yes, like any other kid growing up in the 70s I knew their songs, but I was a punk, and before that, a Sparks, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, Be Bop Deluxe, Blue Oyster Cult, Bowie, Mott the Hoople, T. Rex, Kiss, Tubes, Hawkwind, Stooges fan – not a Carpenters fan. But recently I discovered the solo record from Karen Carpenter, and then read Randy Schmidt’s book ‘Little Girl Blue – The Life of Karen Carpenter.’ I love that album, and can’t believe it was never released until 1996, years after her death.

cover of Karen's 1979 solo album In 1979, while her brother Richard was side-stepping the limelight to get his act together from pills and stuff, Karen Carpenter recorded her self-titled solo album with Phil Ramone as producer. She tried many different styles of music on the album, including disco. The first half of 1979 was THE time for mainstream acceptance of disco, but July 12th was the moment that disco died, killed by Disco Demolition Night at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, where insecure rock fanatics demanded that their sound come back into favor again. Sadly, the record companies listened, and the tide changed almost overnight, bring rock back into dominance. Even though only a few tracks had that sound, Karen’s solo record became one of many casualties of the ‘disco sucks’ movement, which reminds me of today’s Tea Party movement.

the cover of Little Girl BlueUntil Randy Schmidt’s book, Karen’s story had been somewhat marginilized. Saying “Karen starved herself to death and died from anorexia” over-simplifies as much as saying “Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours is about the hiker that cut his own arm off when he got trapped.” Though both statements are true, the complexity of both situations were infinitely greater.

If you want to know what complexities contributed to Karen’s situation, read Little Girl Blue. It is a worthy read. For instance, even of you knew that Karen was a drummer and drummed in The Carpenters, who could imagine that Hot Rod drum king Hal Blaine drummed for them in the studio, and said about her “We had an instant professional love affair because she knew everything I’d done” (see page 58 of Little Girl Blue).

Let’s talk about the CD. The record starts off with Lovelines, which is 5 minutes of bliss. It has a disco-ish feel, but ultimately has a ‘Karen’ feel – she makes the sound all her own. Two other tracks on the CD that have the same basic sound are My Body Keeps Changing My mind and Guess I Just Lost My Head

The album has lots of somewhat melancholy tracks, such as If We Try, Make Believe It’s Your First Time, and especially the last two tracks, the cover of Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years, and the closer, Last One Singing The Blues, which (though entirely different sounding than) reminds me of Donna Summer’s Last Dance.

In between the two extremes (the upbeat disco-ish tracks and the melancholy ones) are tracks in several different genres, all interesting, and all unprecedented in her back catalog till this point. Still In Love With You is a rock track with a Southern feel. All Because of You is a ballad carried by her incredible not-perfect-but-all-the-more-perfect-for-that-fact voice, which cracks like a whisky soaked angel. If I Had You and Remember When Lovin’ Took All Night sound the most like Carpenters tracks to my ears, with Queen-like thick multi-tracked background vocals.

Many hipsters have championed Karen Carpenter is years past. The person I think of most is Kim Gordon, who wrote Tunic (Song for Karen) on Sonic Youth’s 1990 album Goo. In 1994, Karen’s label (Herp Alpert’s A&M Records) released the If I Were a Carpenter compilation, though no one covered anything from her solo record (Sonic Youth covered Superstar, a song originally performed by Bette Midler). This is not too surprising, as the solo record was not released till 1996, though I imagine that fans had found grey area pressings of it for years before that.

Faster! and Li Colt Vas

Marie Ullrich used to live in Boston, and was a fan of Turkish Delight back when we were playing 1995-1997. Now she is an independent film maker, with a new short film called Faster! that has been nominated for a Princess Grace Award and has received the Weisman Award. the film concerns a bike messenger in Chicago, and the trailer for it uses a Turkish Delight song, ‘Li Colt Vas.’

Faster! trailer from Marie Ullrich on Vimeo.

‘Li Colt Vas’ was part of an imaginary language I had with my family’s dalmation Freckles, when I was a little boy. I used to call her Locadog. The phrase ‘li colt vas’ meant “how are you.” The track appeared on Turkish Delight’s second full-length, Howcha Magowcha, named after the Barbara Streisand expression she said in Funny Girl. Howcha Magowcha was released in 1998 as a follow-up to 1996’s Tommy Bell.

Karen Carpenter solo album, and Little Girl Blue book

I was never a fan of The Carpenters. Yes, like any other kid growing up in the 70s I knew their songs, but I was a punk, and before that, a Sparks, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, Be Bop Deluxe, Blue Oyster Cult, Bowie, Mott the Hoople, T. Rex, Kiss, Tubes, Hawkwind, Stooges fan – not a Carpenters fan. But recently I discovered the solo record from Karen Carpenter, and then read Randy Schmidt’s book ‘Little Girl Blue – The Life of Karen Carpenter.’ I love that album, and can’t believe it was never released until 1996, years after her death.

cover of Karen's 1979 solo album In 1979, while her brother Richard was side-stepping the limelight to get his act together from pills and stuff, Karen Carpenter recorded her self-titled solo album with Phil Ramone as producer. She tried many different styles of music on the album, including disco. The first half of 1979 was THE time for mainstream acceptance of disco, but July 12th was the moment that disco died, killed by Disco Demolition Night at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, where insecure rock fanatics demanded that their sound come back into favor again. Sadly, the record companies listened, and the tide changed almost overnight, bring rock back into dominance. Even though only a few tracks had that sound, Karen’s solo record became one of many casualties of the ‘disco sucks’ movement, which reminds me of today’s Tea Party movement.

the cover of Little Girl BlueUntil Randy Schmidt’s book, Karen’s story had been somewhat marginilized. Saying “Karen starved herself to death and died from anorexia” over-simplifies as much as saying “Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours is about the hiker that cut his own arm off when he got trapped.” Though both statements are true, the complexity of both situations were infinitely greater.

If you want to know what complexities contributed to Karen’s situation, read Little Girl Blue. It is a worthy read. For instance, even of you knew that Karen was a drummer and drummed in The Carpenters, who could imagine that Hot Rod drum king Hal Blaine drummed for them in the studio, and said about her “We had an instant professional love affair because she knew everything I’d done” (see page 58 of Little Girl Blue).

Let’s talk about the CD. The record starts off with Lovelines, which is 5 minutes of bliss. It has a disco-ish feel, but ultimately has a ‘Karen’ feel – she makes the sound all her own. Two other tracks on the CD that have the same basic sound are My Body Keeps Changing My mind and Guess I Just Lost My Head

The album has lots of somewhat melancholy tracks, such as If We Try, Make Believe It’s Your First Time, and especially the last two tracks, the cover of Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years, and the closer, Last One Singing The Blues, which (though entirely different sounding than) reminds me of Donna Summer’s Last Dance.

In between the two extremes (the upbeat disco-ish tracks and the melancholy ones) are tracks in several different genres, all interesting, and all unprecedented in her back catalog till this point. Still In Love With You is a rock track with a Southern feel. All Because of You is a ballad carried by her incredible not-perfect-but-all-the-more-perfect-for-that-fact voice, which cracks like a whisky soaked angel. If I Had You and Remember When Lovin’ Took All Night sound the most like Carpenters tracks to my ears, with Queen-like thick multi-tracked background vocals.

Many hipsters have championed Karen Carpenter is years past. The person I think of most is Kim Gordon, who wrote Tunic (Song for Karen) on Sonic Youth’s 1990 album Goo. In 1994, Karen’s label (Herp Alpert’s A&M Records) released the If I Were a Carpenter compilation, though no one covered anything from her solo record (Sonic Youth covered Superstar, a song originally performed by Bette Midler). This is not too surprising, as the solo record was not released till 1996, though I imagine that fans had found grey area pressings of it for years before that.