The Random Noise List:
WORST BAIT AND SWITCH ON CLASSIC ROCK RADIO: Okay, “Riders on the Storm” fades out, and this very mysterious, serpentine violin comes in, and then this rising dramatic string section sneaks under the speakers, and the violin does this gorgeous, seductive dance that reminds you of perfectly-peaked Eastern European rooftops, and the strings punch and swell, and you wonder, is this some great Klezmer Zeppelin delight? And then it turns into “It’s A Living Thing” by silly old ELO, masters of the pompously maudlin, defilers of the great legacy of The Move, the creepy morticians abusing the corpse of the Beatles…and all you can do is weep, and you want to tell anyone listening about the magic that is Roy Wood, and say “I will only feel better if we drive to Carvel right fucking now.”
BEST SONG YOU’VE NEVER HEARD: “Hallelujah Europa” by Jona Lewie. Lewie is one of the great melodicians of all-time, writing hopping, soaring songs that are equal parts Cajun and Kraftwerk. He produces intensely rich confections, tiny giant songs absolutely oozing emotion, memory, and insanely perfect melody, he is a cross between Harry Nilsson and Jimmy Webb and utterly worthy of our worship; and he’s recorded some pretty well known tunes, too, like “You’ll Always Find Me In The Kitchen At Parties,” “Seaside Shuffle” and “Stop the Cavalry.” But a little less known is “Hallelujah Europa,” an edibly delicious and goose-bumping skylark of an anthem to the continent which sounds like a melody cast down from the clouds and up from the heart. This song should be played all the time by, like, everyone.
BEST CHRISTMAS SONG: And while I’m at it, Lewie’s “Stop the Cavalry” is the best Christmas song of any genre or any era PERIOD, it is a perfect weeper of pure solid air and snow and sadness, but let’s fully discuss that at Christmastime, okay?
BEST THIRD-MOST UNDERRATED BAND OF ALL TIME: Now, a few weeks ago, I calculated, utilizing fairly exacting criteria, that the Damned were the most underrated band of all time, with the Small Faces not too far behind. Who is number three? Well, that would be the Move, who combined the power of the Who, the frippery and detailed songcraft of the Beatles, and lot of their own very English character, full of instrumental twists that presage metal and prog and a soaring melodicism that would make ABBA proud (and probably actually influenced them, a bit). The Move were a huge influence on such a diverse group of artists that you wonder HOW could one band cover so many bases (usually in a single song) and do it so well; Bowie, Black Sabbath, Big Star, they all bear the mark of The Move. If you recall, my criteria for delineating The Most Underrated Band of All Time was (something like) this: I’m not just talking about who was the BEST, or who was the COOLEST, or what fascinabulous and obscure band should you tell Layne about; I’m talking about what band had everything to become a first-rank classic band of Immortal Hugeness, but (usually due to industry and/or management atrocities) never got their due. And the Move are the Third most underrated act of the post-Beatles era, after the Damned and the Small Faces.
Oh, the Move kind-of evolved into ELO, but that’s a long story.
BEST OBSCURE WORD USED IN THE ABOVE PARAGRAPH: “Frippery” is a hell of a word, isn’t it? It means “unnecessary ornament in architecture, dress, and language.”
BEST BAND THAT I REALLY WANTED TO HATE BUT ENDED UP LOVING: Rush. Because.
BEST HIT SONG THAT I ACTUALLY PLAY ON: “I Go Blind” by Hootie & the Blowfish. Actually, it’s the only hit song I play on. I play the B-3 organ on it. The band were in the recording studio, and they tried a bunch of things for that song, and even bought in some pros to try a keyboard part, and nothing was quite right. I was there, and I thought I heard something in my head that would be just right. So, even though I am not exactly a keyboard player, I asked if I could have a go at it. So I went to the other side of the glass, stood up behind the organ, put on a pair of headphones, and told them to run the track. I did nothing for the first verse, but then after the first verse ended, I stuck one finger on one note and held it for the rest of the song. That was it. One finger, one note, just like I learned from studying LaMonte Young and Tony Conrad. And it worked really, really well. And they – that would be the band and producer Don Gehman – actually mixed that one organ note pretty high; so I will be wandering around in CVS, sometimes, and that song will come on, and I’ll hear that note, and I’ll go “Hey, that’s me. Maximum Minimalism. Yeh! Oh yeh! That works! Excuse me, where’s the Neo-Synephrine? You mean it’s right there? I’m standing right in front of it? Sorry…I still don’t see it. Oh…right…yes, right there on the second to bottom shelf. Y’know…I still don’t see it.”
BEST BAND NAME/CONCEPT STUMBLED UPON ACCIDENTALLY IN THIS COLUMN: Klezmer Zeppelin – or Klez Zeppelin – is a helluva band concept. Someone get on that, okay? And don’t transmute it into some crappy ukulele orchestra playing Zeppelin songs, because that idea is a pile of goat crap, and if I see such a band, I will holler, “You are sheep dicks, every one of you!” I am talking here about a group interpreting Led Zeppelin songs in the manner of the traditional music of Eastern European Jewry. That works. That really works. Think about it. And I do NOT want to hear the words “Ukulele Orchestra” UNLESS those words are connected to “…was playing on the deck of the doomed South Korean ferry.”
BEST AMERICAN SINGER-SONGWRITER: Paul Sanchez is an American treasure who should be playing multiple nights at the Beacon Theatre, and whose songs should be assembled to make a Broadway Musical, one that tells the story of hope, disillusionment, loss and love in 20th/21st Century America. He is the Bayou Springsteen, the master of the wistful and memorable, weaver of melancholy and witty and dark and uplifting stories about the very extraordinary ordinary folk of America, he is a cross between Steve Goodman and John Prine and Springsteen and he is the equal of all of them, and stop reading this column and find his music and listen to him right n