Friday, December 30, 2005

Murder, Inc.

This great album is a soundtrack without a movie. The whole thing was put together by a guy named Irving Joseph. Joseph was born in Brooklyn in 1925 and worked as a pianist for Tommy Dorsey and Lena Horne before writing this record. Joseph only did a couple more records after this LP and then he started working on Broadway and backing up Frank Sinatra and Rita Moreno in clubs. He died in 2000.

He apparently based the songs on books written about the Mafia and organized crime. That’s the idea I get from the Nat Hentoff’s liner notes anyway. Here’s what Hentoff wrote about this one: "The argot of the underworld includes oddly twisted meanings of words in current usage by the day people. A contract can cover the assignment of territories for the narcotics trade but is usually a job for killers hired to annihilate someone in the way. Such a contract was fulfilled in 1951 when Willie Moretti, who had talked to the Kefauver Committee was extinguished."

The LP came out in 1960 on Time Records. The band includes Milt Hinton and Bucky Pizzarelli. I think it’s one of the better “Crime Jazz” records. The label must’ve liked it a lot because they re-released the exact same record in 1964 as SURFIN’ TIME credited to a band called The Wedges. The names of the songs were changed.

I found this record in an antique store that’s been going out of business for the last three years. The same day, I found a book called The Rebel Yell by H. Allen Smith. The price wasn’t marked anywhere on the book. I joked that it should be two dollars because that was the price on the dustflap. The woman behind the counter agreed. Then she gave me a 60 percent discount and sold me the book for 80 cents!

Happy birthday!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

VHF #19

I’m not sure how much of a tribute a one-sided 45 is but here’s one for the Swell Maps. VHF records released this in 1995 and it’s not showing up in their catalog so I guess it’s out of print. I do remember somebody at VHF saying that the label wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the Swell Maps so I guess they thought they owed the band something.

There are rumors of yet another Swell Maps compilation. It’s been about 5 years since the last one. Wingtip Sloat has been working on their first compilation for longer than that.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Up and Down

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Santa's Got A Brand New Bag

Here's more Christmas music! Last week's music is still available!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Hi, We're The Popes!

Last week, A Million Miles Away had our first visitor from Vatican City. In honor of such an esteemed visitor, here’s something about a North Carolina band called the Popes.

HI, WE’RE THE POPES showed up in my mailbox sometime in the fall of ’88. I hadn’t ordered it, I’d never even heard of the band. There was a note saying that they had gotten my address from a mutual acquaintance in Chapel Hill. The band was going to be playing a show in Chattanooga and hoped I would come out to see them. Chattanooga was boring in the late eighties, I’d go to see just about every band that came through so I would’ve gone anyway. But after I played the record, I knew I wasn’t going to miss the Popes. This thing is one of the best free records I’ve ever gotten in the mail!

After making sure I would be there, The Popes almost didn’t make it to the show. Some friends of mine were playing the same night and we were sitting around the club drinking and waiting for the band to show up. Around 8, the bartender said that one of the guys from the Popes was on the phone and that they were on the way. They had gotten their dates mixed up and had driven right through Chattanooga to Huntsville where they had already started setting up at the club they were scheduled to play the next night! The band must not have gotten any red lights on the trip back to Chattanooga. They broke down their equipment and made the 110 mile trip in less than 2 hours.

The Popes never made any other records. There were some tracks on some comps, including a song for an Alex Chilton tribute. The Popes broke up in 1991. They had just recorded an LP for First Warning Records that was never released. Anybody got a copy that they'll send me? I promise I’ll come see your band if you play in Huntsville!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A Mighty Number

Way in the middle of the Air.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Hey You

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Everyday will be like a holiday

Here's some music for your holidays. Which ones? Download the .zip file and find out. Open before Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I'm not the same as when I began

I will not be treated as property.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Love Songs In The Night

These two songs are from a single that Steve Martin released in 1971. Steve Martin was the lead singer in the Left Banke. That’s him on “Pretty Ballerina”, “She May Call You Up Tonight” and “Walk Away Renee”. These two songs are pretty much Left Banke in every way except for the name on the label. The songs were written by the Left Banke’s keyboard player and primary songwriter Michael Brown. Also on the session were Left Banke bassist Tom Finn and drummer George Cameron.

Love Songs In The Night” is a terrific power pop song. This song should’ve been a hit but it’s barely known outside the circle of Left Banke fans. The flip isn’t as memorable but it's still a good song.

Both songs were used in the soundtrack to a movie called Hot Parts. The movie starred an ex-Warhol Superstar named Ultra Violet and 'is mostly about sex.' Anybody seen it? doesn’t list the movie in Ultra Violet’s entry and there’s nothing available on eBay. There was a soundtrack released. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a copy of that either.

The songs have only been reissued on a Left Banke comp that Rhino released in 1985. If anybody ever wises up and reissues the Left Banke’s records, I hope they include both of these songs.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sit down

and rest a little while.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Everybody’s Got Something To Hide

The Feelies really need to have some sort of re-issue series or at least a rarities compilation. If the Trypes EP is included, there would be enough b-sides and rarities for a full disc. If Oh-Ok can get a reissue, why shouldn’t the Feelies?

Here’s a couple of songs from the “Higher Ground” 12” that came out in 1988. The first is a cover of “Egyptian Reggae” that’s almost as innocuous as Jonathan Richman’s original. And then there’s this hyper cover of “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide (Except Me & My Monkey)”. Talk about perpetual nervousness! The Feelies also did a slightly more reserved cover of this song on their first LP back in 1980. That’s when they had Anton Fier on drums. Both of these were recorded live at The Roxy in Los Angeles in 1987.

And here’s two more songs from another 1988 12”. First up is an edited version of “Away.” If you like it, there’s a longer version on the ONLY LIFE album. You probably have a copy of that already, don’t you? The B-side is a terrific cover of Patti Smith’s “Dancing Barefoot.” I think this was included on some soundtrack or comp a few years ago but I may be wrong about that.

I got both of these records from Tim Lee outside a bar in Chattanooga back in 1989. Tim was playing bass for the Swimming Pool Q’s at the time. After the show, I started asking him questions about the Windbreakers and Beat Temptation. I guess he liked that because he told me that he had a box of records out in the van and asked if I wanted any. I’ve never been one to turn down records so I said “sure!” I thought I was going to get a copy of Lee’s solo record or maybe something by the Windbreakers. Tim must’ve seen the look on my face when he pulled out a whole box of Feelies 12” singles. He explained that Coyote had sent him a bunch of records when they went out of business so he was getting rid of them wherever he could. Thanks Tim!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Elephant

I’ve had this record for a while now and I’m not sure where or when I got it. But that doesn’t matter much. Wherever it came from, it’s a good record.

There’s not much information about The Philly Four. I thought the record was from the early seventies but it’s really from ’68. The band was from Philadelphia, we can only assume that there were four people (or maybe three people and the elephant) in the band.

Coincidentally, this song is available on a comp with “Ruby’s House Party” which I posted a while back. I’m gonna have to get that comp one of these days.

Two more things: I found the website of a guy named Ray Brazen that did a cover of “The Elephant” a few years ago. And there’s a site in England that’s selling a copy of this record for 30 pounds! I thought that was a bit much until I saw this auction on eBay. Maybe I should start storing my copy in a plastic bag.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I had a fearful vision

I'm gonna change my way.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Enoch Light presents

I haven’t had this LP by The Spectras very long. I pulled it out of the used bins at Sunburst Records a few weeks ago mostly because it said ‘Enoch Light presents’ on the cover. Since the album was released in 1970, I was hoping it was some sort of ‘persuasive percussion goes psychedelic’ thing. It’s not. There are a few good songs, I could’ve done without the horns but that’s just me. The Spectras are as good as H.P. Lovecraft or T.I.M.E. anyway. Free Design fans should like the Spectras.

Here’s the surprising part. I did a Google search to see if I could find anything about the band. They’re still together! The Spectras are from New Hampshire and they’re playing a show next weekend. They don’t have any songs from this LP on their playlist but if a realtor shouted out for one, maybe they’d go ahead and play it.

It makes me feel pretty good to know that a bunch of guys that started a band in high school are still having fun playing music 40 years later.
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