Friday, September 12, 2014

ROYAL: JAMES BROWN


Yup, I'm messing you about again, as you scuttle about around how a godfather can be regal. But I don't mean that one. O, I see, did you not realise there was another? I mean Jim Brown, the Ulster postie, Elvis impersonator royale. Except he only covers the songs Elvis didn't sing. Or at least didn't sing this side of his mortal coil. For all we know these may well make up his current repertoire, in a houseband including Hendrix, Entwistle and Moon. But I digress, as Jim King, aka The King, gave up his career as a postman when discovered singing in  Belfast pub, his benefactor being one Bap Kennedy, brother of Brian, onetime Van Morrison echo-man. Bap, himself no musical slouch, was the pivot in N'orn Irish punks, Energy Orchard, before launching a still active solo career, drifting into an Irish tinted Americana. He produced Gravelands, Brown's first LP, it's novelty being that it totally comprised songs made famous by the dead, or from bands wherein at least one member was so. Here's my favourite song

Buy Gravelands

It was a surprise cult hit, albeit selling few*, yet guaranteed Brown many a late night music show slot. I think I caught him on The Word, an 90s UK "yoof" arts show for mainly post-pub audiences. This would have been 1998, with a 2nd disc following, Return to Splendor, two years later, before parting ways with his band. Here's a cracker from it.

Buy Return to Splendor

Subsequently a set of false starts have ensued, including the inevitable attempt at original material. It bombed, recently resurfacing, with other odd cuts, as Return to Gravelands. He remains world famous in his home town and the home of all old rockers, Germany,but I suspect it's better that way, even if he never quite managed the uber-trump of an album of Jerry Garcia songs. Now what could that possibly be called?

*OK, half a mill, apparently........

ROYAL: King Missile, "Cheesecake Truck"


I have no quantitative way of backing up this statement, of course, but I would have to venture a guess that of all the "royal" bands you could think of, none would sound less royal than King Missile. Well, there is Royal Trux, so maybe there's that. In any case, King Missile may very well have been the kings of dumb and funny philosophical playground avant-garde stoner rock -- and the fact that I don't even quite know what that means says something. But much like King Missile's songs, it's best just to take it at face value.

You may be most familiar with King Missile thanks to their fluke 1992 "hit," "Detachable Penis." I feel quite safe in making the assertion that it was the highest-charting song ever with the word "penis" in the title: it hit #25 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart. Now sure, that's a funny song and all, but for my money, the best thing King Missile ever did was "Cheesecake Truck," a brilliantly ridiculous 1 minute and 11 second "song" from their 1990 album, Mystical Shit. "Cheesecake Truck" makes Camper Van Beethoven's "Take the Skinheads Bowling" sound like "Stairway to Heaven."

But don't take my word for it -- I could say nothing more about the song that would make you appreciate it any more than simply listening to it. And here are the lyrics in full, in order to best appreciate the song's warped genius.
So then I got this idea about driving a cheesecake truck
Cause I figured at the end of the day I could take some of the leftover cheesecakes home.
And I love cheesecake.
So I went to the cheesecake company
And they asked me if I could drive a truck
And I said yes
And they said you're hired.
So the next day I got in the truck with all the cheesecakes
And I drove about a block and I just had to have a cheesecake.
So I pulled over and opened the truck and I got a cheesecake
And I also took one for later
And I took one for my friend Farm Boy
And I took one to bring home
And by that time I had eaten one of the cheesecakes
So I took another one.
So then I figured I might as well stop at my house to drop off all the cheesecakes
So I take five cakes to eat on the way
and I drive another block and a half to my house.
Now it's lunchtime so I eat 10 cheesecakes
And a cheesecake for dessert.
I should point out by the way that all of these cheesecakes were very delicious.
Anyway, I decided the only thing to do would be to eat all
the rest of the cheesecakes and hide the truck somewhere and leave town.
And I miss everybody a lot
But I'm not really sorry
Because they were very delicious cheesecakes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Royal: Queens



As a native of the New York borough of Queens, I’ve been a bit miffed by the virtual (but not complete) absence of any references to Queens during this theme. I could have written about bands and artists who came from that borough, like the Ramones or Paul Simon, or even Run-DMC, or some of the famous jazz musicians who lived there, like Louis Armstrong. Or, I could have made it easy, and written about Queen, or the Queens of the Stone Age. Or picked a song like “Killer Queen,” “Queen Bee,” or, god forbid, “Dancing Queen.” But, no, I’m going to go in a different direction, and talk a bit about some of the great musicians who have been crowned Queen of some genre or another. Because there isn’t an official organization devoted to the creation of music royalty (as opposed to organizations that collect music royalties), in some cases there may be competing claimants for the crown. For the purposes of this post, I deem myself the final authority, and hope that my decisions don’t lead to, say, a War of the Roses. And, because these titles are not granted by the United States, none of these citizens are in violation of Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, the Title of Nobility Clause (or, for that matter, the Sanity Clause).

Let’s get started with the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin:



From the next country over, we have the Queen of R&B, Ruth Brown:



The Queen of Gospel, Mahaila Jackson, occupies an older throne:



Nearby, the Queen of the Blues, Koko Taylor reigns:



Meanwhile, down in Louisiana, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas, lets the good times roll:



We can't forget the Queen of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald (who lived for a while in Queens):



Influenced by some of her fellow rulers, the Queen of Rock & Roll (who also held the crown as Queen of Psychedelic Soul, presumably subject to Aretha), Janis Joplin’s reign was too short:



In Opryland, Loretta Lynn, the Queen of Country, holds sway:



Meanwhile, hailing from Staten Island is the Queen of Folk, Joan Baez:



Cuban Celia Cruz’s status as Queen of Salsa was never threatened by the revolution (although she became a citizen of the United States):



And we end this discussion with the Queen of Reinvention, yes, Cher: