The Del Fuegos

While visiting my nephew and his wife in Virginia a few weeks ago, they put on some kids’ music and we laughed as we watched my baby great-nephew wiggle and dance to the music. But that voice. I know it. and the buzz rode up in me and nagged at me until my nephew said. “I love this guy’s music. He used to be in this band a long time ago, in Boston…” and just as he said the name of the band, it burst out that dark closet in my mind as well. Of course. The Del Fuegos. That’s Dan Zanes!

Suddenly, it was 1982 again, at the Inn Square Men’s Bar (Ladies Invited!) in Cambridge, where I’d seen the Del Fuegos, along with The Neats, The Lyres, The Turbines, and countless others countless times. That voice is just unmistakable.

The DelFuegos were a staple in the post-punk roots rock revival thing going on back then, and the crowd was distinctively a raucous punk rock crowd. Untold amounts of beer was consumed, to the point of never quite being able to find my car…a blessing in disguise. But I digress.

A Side: I Can’t Sleep

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B Side: I Always Call Her Back

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So here is the first single the band put out, for tiny indie label Czech Records. It doesn’t appear on their official discography, and only the B Side got reissued in 1993, on the fantastic DIY: Mass. Ave. – The Boston Scene (1975-83) compilation CD. The A Side, presented here, remains out of print. The B Side got considerable airplay on my own radio program.

The Del Fuegos won critical favor and a loyal, if not ravenous, cult following at home and on the road for their passionate, no-frills style. Formed in 1980, the Del Fuegos consisted of guitarist and singer Dan Zanes, his brother Warren Zanes on guitar, bassist Tom Lloyd, and drummer Steve Morrell. They began to gain support outside of Boston with the band’s first few low-budget tours. While the Del Fuegos began recording an album for legendary local label Ace of Hearts Records, who are most famous for Mission of Burma, but whose back catalog is just SOLID and is worth your time to research, in 1984 the famed Los Angeles indie Slash Records (who gave us X and The Violent Femmes among many others!) stepped in and signed them, releasing their first album, The Longest Day, in the fall of that year. By now, Steve Morrell had parted ways with the band, and former Embarrassment percussionist Woody Giessmann had taken over the drum kit. The Longest Day’s mixture of attitude, guitar firepower, and heart-on-the-sleeve emotion clicked with both critics and fans, and the Del Fuegos seemed poised for a commercial breakthrough with their second album, 1985’s Boston, Mass.

While “Don’t Run Wild” and “I Still Want You” earned enough radio and MTV airplay to make you crazy and the album received rave reviews, it wasn’t the hit some were hoping for, and the more self-consciously hip members of the music world began to turn their backs on the band after it appeared in a widely seen beer commercial. Actually, it wasn’t the commercial itlsef, it was the dumbass line “Rock n Roll is folk music cuz…it’s for folks!” that sent everyone away incredulously sighing.

The band began reaching for a more ambitious sound and wider musical range on its third album, but 1987’s Stand Up received harsh reviews and little support from fans, despite the Del Fuegos’ appearance on an extended tour with noted fan Tom Petty (who also guested on Stand Up), in which the group shared the opening slot with the Replacements. After Stand Up’s disappointing reception, Woody Giessmann and Warren Zanes both quit the Del Fuegos, and the band was dropped by Slash. In 1989, Dan Zanes and Tom Lloyd decided to give the band another chance, bringing aboard guitarist Adam Roth and drummer Joe Donnelly and cutting a new album, Smoking in the Fields, but while critics were kinder to the new set than Stand Up, the album was a commercial bust, and within a year the Del Fuegos were history.

Dan Zanes went on to a solo career and in time found success with a series of acclaimed children’s albums, at least one of which is responsible for me digging up this gem and making this Lost45s entry here in Jukebox Heart.

Another New Category: Jukebox Heart Featured Artist

The featured artist category takes a closer look at one of the artists in Jukebox Heart. We kick off this new category featuring the artist known as Colleen.

Parisian sound sculptress Colleen’s music is more atmospheric than a room full of nervous ghosts. Her liking for 17th Century instruments is obvious and itself fascnating. Whether it’s the viola da gamba (a 7-string ancestor of the cello), the spinet (a variation of the harpsichord), the clarinet, crystal glasses, the guitar, or simply a sample, Colleen’s creations have always used the lush, mesmeric qualities of a bygone era to evoke the atmospheric gloom of the ethereal music she makes today.

It seems a shame to tarnish the delicate perfection of Colleen’s music with words – this is music that needs to be listened to late at night, free of everyday distractions. You’ll find yourself entranced by a mesmerising spider’s web of sounds that sound like they’ve been beamed in from another place, another time.

Colleen’s simple but effortlessly charming music is an entrancing potion laced with magical details – naïve instrumentals filled with warmth, melody and soul, played on a broken music box, a glockenspiel or a guitar, phasing in and out, on the verge of collapse. Above all, this is wonderfully human. Another girl, another planet.

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This track is called “Ritournelle”

Everyone Alive Wants Answers is the haunting 2003 debut full-length of work of then-26-year-old Parisienne Cecile Schott. No more tangible thoughts were conjured from the stark jumble of digital mandolins that stumble so meticulously throughout the title track of this album than a walk through a park where you can almost hear eeryone else’s thoughts. Colleen has surveyed the landscapes of organic music made digitally and done it more successfully than most, given the immediate grandeur and impact of Everyone Alive Wants Answers. ‘Ritournelle’ plays like a ballroom dance scene in a Tim Burton movie, all delicate chimes and sweeping strings. This full-length debut is absolutely gorgeous, a warm inviting swirl of ambient symphonics and contemplative interludes. It’s an amazing thing to spring this CD on someone when traveling late at night alone through country roads…

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This track is called “Summer Water”

To describe the ten hand-crafted compositions that comprise The Golden Morning Breaks as minimalist psychedelia would be both an oversimplification of the genres and a disservice to the musings Colleen, whose complex combinations of melodic guitar, glockenspiel, keyboards and found sounds recall neither John Cale nor the 13th Floor Elevators. Still, her second album for the Leaf label, bounds forth in both directions with equal aplomb, resulting in a sound that is at turns disturbing, humorous, playful and dreamlike – simultaneously seductive and reductive.

Even a cursory listening to this all-instrumental offering reveals a number of intriguing influences. ‘Floating in the Clearest Night’ and ‘The Happy Sea’ share not only a disposition for precious song titles, but also a common musical vernacular with Flying Saucer Attack and the occasional Bardo Pond record. Truly, a number of the songs on The Golden Morning Breaks seem to have been recorded with a barely-melodic vocal track in mind, only to have it removed at the last moment. The absence of lyrics, though, is scarcely a fault, exemplified best by ‘I’ll Read You a Story’ – seven minutes of fleeting, plucked melodies that unfold and develop just like the title implies.

In contrast to the Bliss-Out tendencies on a number of tracks lies the more-playful, if occasionally less-fulfilling, psychedelic tinge of compositions like ‘The Sweet Harmonicon’ and ‘Mining in the Rain.’ Certainly rooted in the same percussive territory as other songs found here, and bearing a marked similarity to recordings by Pipa-ist Min Xiao Fen, these songs sound not as much like self-contained compositions as lost fragments from a Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd album. Undeniably intriguing, if occasionally precious, Schott’s gift for controlled improvisation makes these songs tenable interludes in an otherwise thoroughly-engaging album. Underscoring this point, perhaps intentionally, is the remarkable 10-minute closing track ‘Everything Lay Still,”’ which combines playful chimes, droning guitar and keyboards into a single magnificent theme that displays at once both sides of Colleen’s dual nature.

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This track is called “What is a Componium, Part 2”

‘It seemed like a dream opportunity to explore further the miniature continent of sound that music boxes in all their variety generate,’ says Colleen’s Cécile Schott in response to the carte blanche handed to her by national radio station France Culture’s Atelier De Création Radiophonique to record music for a special broadcast. The commission would have remained just that, but Schott was so pleased with the results she decided to give the nod for the recordings to be released on this 38-minute EP, under a temporarily revised artist name.

No stranger to the use of music boxes in her recordings and live performance, the consciously limited palette yields extraordinary dividends; this is arguably the most intimate and wonderfully melodic release of her career to date. Composed entirely using music boxes (but for one track), the pieces use everything from miniature boxes hidden in 1940s birthday cards to large Victorian boxes. Not content with the orthodox sounds produced by the boxes, Schott hijacked them, playing them with her fingers or with mallets on the comb. She re-sampled and affected pitch and delay in a quest to produce unique sounds and melodies.

Utilizing the natural loop in each box, the different boxes move in and out of time, evoking memories of childhood. This playful nature ebbs and flows throughout the EP like a stream unsure of its chosen path. Sounds reminiscent of harps (‘What Is A Componium? Part 2’), xylophones and Fender Rhodes (‘Your Heart Is So Loud’), and electronics (‘Calypso In A Box’) appear and then disappear on the landscape, fooling the listener into believing that the noises emanate from more than one type of instrument.

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This track is called “Sea of Tranquility”

On her album ‘Les Ondes Silencieuses’, Parisienne sonic sculptress Cecille Schott aka Colleen has abandoned the samples and loops which characterised her previous long players, preferring instead to employ natural sounds and tones. But, ever inventive, this approach led to the 26-year-old Parisienne using Baroque instruments such as the viola da gamba and the spinet, a smaller relative of the harpsichord. The end result is a shimmering, evocative collection of homespun, frequently fragile musical moods which showcase Cecille’s considerable compositional talents. She also recently scored ‘Serie’ – the last dance work by the acclaimed French-Swiss choreographer Perrine Valli and has completed a successful UK tour with her label mates Triosk.

PKG – A new category on Jukebox Heart

Another new category launches in Jukebox Heart: PKG. It’s all about the Packaging…

This category celebrates the adventurous musicians who not only take brave steps in their avant-garde music, but who also believe the presentation is as much at stake as the music. This particular category is one of my favorites, because I’ve often purchased records solely for the packaging. The most successful, of course, succeed on all fronts.

Kicking off this category is a very obscure seven-inch single by Clubhouse. The name of the track you are hearing is “Architecture of Noise”.

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A brilliant packaging concept whose work can only be that of a trained industrial designer. First, the music is harsh, abrasive, noisey, engaging and full-spectrum – all the hallmarks of an experienced noise composer.

The record ships flat, like any other 7-inch single, and fits nicely in a polyurethane sleeve. But in order to play the record, its jacket, a small portion of which is glued to the center of one side, must be unfolded and bound up in a three-dimensional diamond shaped origami-inspired obelisk – see the photo above. The cardboard shape is sharply sloped and allows most tonearms to play the record through to completion. My headshell, however, kind of nicks the edge over the last several grooves. This is a brilliant idea in packaging.

Bizarro Cover Versions – A New Category on Jukebox Heart.

Another new category on Jukebox Heart. This time, cover versions that are so off the mark that they are just spot on. Ironic? Perhaps. But Irony is the new black. This category will bring us songs remade in the most unlikely of fashions by the most unlikely people. So it’s very fitting to kick off this new category with this beautiful find.

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Here is Dion Dimucci, of Dion and the Belmonts. That’s right, it’s THE Dion. – a staple of Laurie Records – and of his own solo accord as Dion, doing an unrecognizable and unbelievable version of Hendrix’ Purple Haze.

Dion, in his solo career, was most famous for his early 1960s hits Runaround Sue and The Wanderer, but he had a whole lot more. His recordings with Dion and the Belmonts are absolute essentials on every 50’s rock and roll collection. But as the politics of the 60s heated up and the Beatles began to become more intellectual, the innocence of Dion’s signature greaser/doo-wop sound fell way out of favor. Dion’s own maturity and political awareness sparked him to record a comeback-hit of sorts, and it’s rumored that he kicked a long-term heroin habit shortly before releasing Abraham, Martin and John. One wonders if he fell off the wagon when putting this version of Hendrix’ “Purple Haze” however, because there must have been some irresistibly heavy shit being passed around at Allegro Sound Studios the day this was cut. If not for the writing credit under the title, you wouldn’t even have a hint it’s the same tune. Dion’s version doesn’t even contain a guitar track – much less a wimpy one. The prominent line here is clearly a flute. A flute? A flute. Not exactly one of my rock and roll instruments of choice. This was a commercial failure, apparently too twee even for the flower children of the day.

Laurie Records persisted into the early 70s, somewhat capitalizing on the doo-wop revival by reissuing all of its early 45s and creating collector edition box sets. Laurie also brought us some other very familiar acts such as The Mystics (Hushabye), The Chiffons (He’s So Fine, One Fine Day, etc), The Royal Guardsmen (Snoopy vs. The Red Baron) and even jumped into the British Invasion scene with Gerry and the Pacemakers.

This has made an appearance in various other blogs of mine before, but it’s such an important entry in this new category, I couldn’t think of any better track to launch this category, other than perhaps Shatner’s “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”, but that’s been way overdone as it is. *wink*

Jukebox Heart is now on Facebook.

You can now add Jukebox Heart to your Facebook experience.

Just visit the Jukebox Heart Group when you are logged into Facebook, and subscribe. It’s that easy. The Group has its own wall for discussion and a special place for news directly from the Jukebox Heart webmaster.

You may also import the Jukebox Heart blog into your Facebook Notes application. Just go to the application, click “My Notes”, enter into the Web URL window, click the “Start Importing” button, and it will start importing automatically. From there, you will receive all the updates of the Jukebox Heart blog directly into your Facebook Notes application. You will only receive the blog updates, though; all of the other features are available only at the website.

Jukebox Heart has a Big Ten Inch…

…Record of your favorite blues.

Today, another new category launched in Jukebox Heart. These new categories are intended to add some depth to the already diverse music presented and discussed here in Jukebox Heart, and the upcoming months will see a burst of new categories introduced as I continue to spin out my monthly signature hour-plus continuous mix podcasts. But the two most recent categories, this and the recent Lost 45s, have been specifically conceived to celebrate the Jukebox in all its glory. Whereas the 45 RPM record appeared at the dawn of the Atomic Age and the early jukeboxes which housed them exploited the streamlined modern designs, this category, Big Ten Inch, features the 78 RPM disc, the large ten-inch diameter unwieldy fragile discs that preceded the 45 as the vehicle for the single record. These records have received a lot of attention in recent years and have come back into fashion among collectors now that high-fidelity turntables are available equipped with the 78 RPM speed. Back in the early 70s, when I had my first job in a doo-wop collector’s record shop in NYC, 78s were largely viewed as disposable and uncollectable, and my boss elected to pay me for my time with box loads of these records rather than the hourly wage I was supposed to be getting. For him it was a coup. He got to clear out his warehouse of “junk” and it cost him virtually nothing to pay me to clean it out for him. And I would happily lug as many as I could carry on the bus home. I’ve continued o collect these records ever since.

“Big Ten Inch” is the fabulous innuendo taken from Bullmoose Jackson’s famous record “Big Ten Inch Record”, covered later by Aerosmith. Racy lyrics of the day could have only been published by an independent label:

Got me the strangest woman
believe me this trick’s no cinch
but I really get her going
when I whip out my big 10 inch

Record of a band that plays the blues
well a band that plays its blues
she just love my big 10 inch
record of her favorite blues…

…and it continues from there. Delicious. I don’t have a copy of this wonderful record on 78, otherwise it would have been most fitting to kick off with that. But when I do obtain one, it will certainly make an appearance.

So we’ll start this off with one of my favorite records ever, a gorgeous Chicago Ballad from 1955 by The Orchids:

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As I said, this is one of my favorite records of all time, on the incredibly rare Parrot label out of Chicago, 1955. Parrot and Blue Lake were seminal blues and R&B labels at the time, owned by Al Benson. Many fine artists got their start or spent the early parts of their careers on this label. Most of the masters were sold to the Chess brothers, and many of the acts went over to chess as well when Parrot folded. For an exhaustive history and discography of Parrot, one of the most important labels in history, go here.

The Orchids, in the eight titles they cut for Parrot, have to rate as one of the best doowop groups to come out of Chicago. All of them were from the South Side. Gilbert Warren was the principal lead and composer; bass Buford Wright wrote and sang lead with the group; second tenor Robert C. Nesbary also played piano for the group. Apparently there was just one more, recalled by some as ‘Charles,’ because in September, 1955, the group appeared as the Four Orchids on a Benson-sponsored packaged show at the Regal Theater with LaVern Baker, the Spaniels, the Four Fellows, J. B. Lenoir, Lou Mac, and Buddy and Ella Johnson. The previous spring, the Orchids put down two amazing tracks in ‘You’re Everything to Me’, presented here, and ‘Newly Wed,’ the flipside, which is more rock ‘n’ roll-oriented.The sax break on this song is one of the best. The band, “Al Smith Group”, not credited on the record, consisted of Red Holloway on tenor sax, probably Norman Simmons at the piano, Lefty Bates on guitar, Quinn Wilson on bass, and Vernel Fournier on drums.

Lost 45s

Lost 45s is a new category in the Jukebox Heart blog.

The cherished 45 RPM record celebrated its 50th anniversary just a few years ago to little applause. Completely overcome by events in technology, the 45 lives on as an icon to American culture cutting across lines perhaps moreso than any other piece of Americana history. Once the heart and soul of Jukeboxes everywhere, the “7-inch” remains now only as a kitsch promotional item among major labels and as a boutique niche market item for collectors of alternative music. Nevertheless, the 45 remains a staple of listening for many die hard music fans. This new category pays homage to the 45 RPM record. The track presented here is a 45 just aching to be rediscovered.

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Barbara George’s ‘I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More)’ topped the R&B charts in 1961 and has proven a popular cover item ever since. The New Orleans native had never been in the studio before she brought her extremely catchy melody to Harold Battiste’s fledgling A.F.O. label. Benefiting from her pleasing, unpolished vocal and a melodic coronet solo by Melvin Lastie (NOT Herb Alpert, as has been rumored in the past – despite the similarity), the tune caught fire, vaulting high on pop playlists. Amazingly, nothing else George did ever dented the charts, although she waxed some listenable follow-ups for A.F.O. and Sue.

Born Barbara Ann Smith in 1942, she sang in church and on the streets of New Orleans, where she was discovered by the singer Jessie Hill, who had written and recorded the Mardi Gras favorite ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’. By this time she was married, and would record under the name Barbara George. Hill took her to audition for Harold Battiste, who was setting up the A.F.O. (All For One) label with the crème de la crème of New Orleans African-American session musicians. George based ‘I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More)’ on the traditional gospel song ‘Just A Closer Walk With Thee’ and Battiste wasn’t too impressed at first, though he agreed to help her cut the track.

Originally released at the end of 1961 on A.F.O., the catchy single soon gained nationwide distribution by Sue Records. It topped the R&B charts and crossed over to the US pop listings, eventually peaking at No 3 in January 1962. ‘You Talk About Love’, George’s follow-up single, only made the lower reaches of the Top 100 and, after releasing the first album on A.F.O., she signed directly to Juggy Murray’s Sue operation, joining a roster which included Ike and Tina Turner and Baby Washington. However, George only issued four singles on Sue – ‘If You Think’ and ‘Send For Me (If You Need Some Lovin’)’, another minor hit, ‘Recipe (For Perfect Fools)’ and ‘Something’s Definitely Wrong’.

Battiste, the New Orleans arranger who had been her mentor, rued the day she had decided to join Murray’s label, telling John Browen, the author of Rhythm & Blues In New Orleans: “Fatherly advice is no good when you’re fighting Cadillacs, fancy clothes and money.” The success of George’s début 45 helped put A.F.O. on the map, but also brought problems since it was only achieved with the help of Sue. Battiste moved to California in 1963, a few months after George’s defection to Sue. George subsequently issued a few more sides on Lana and Seven B in the ’60s, before dropping out of music to look after her three sons.

This is definitely part of the soundtrack of my childhood, along with countless other songs. These were the sounds of the early 60’s, when my brother and sister were teens, and I was just going along for the ride in my stroller… Here is a beautiful copy of this classic 45.

Screamer of the Day: Motormark

Motormark- We Are The Public
This is music for the hyper-caffeinated.

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SRSLY, when words like “draining” and “exhausting” are used in connection with music, the artist is usually playing something heavy and extreme like death metal, metalcore, or really dense free jazz — not poppy boy/girl music with synthesizers. But Motormark’s poppy boy/girl music with synthesizers has so much nervous energy that this Chrome Tape CD can, in fact, be draining — not draining in the ferocious, suffocating way that Slayer and post-1965 John Coltrane are draining, but draining in the “I’ve just driven from DC to Boston on ten cans of Red Bull, Six shots of espresso from the all night Dunkin Donuts and inhaled gasoline fumes” way. Deal.

Scottish electro punk duo Jane Motoro (lead vocals, bass, keyboards) and Marko Poloroid (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, and best goddamn punk rock pseudonym ever) turn synths into a destructive machine, so much so that it will leave the honest hard working electro funk artists like Ladytron crying onto their latest carefully ironed uniform. Motormark are a breath of fresh air in the anger and passion they combine to liven up a genre that sorely needed it. The erratic and frantic electronica coupled with distorted drum beats, sit in well with Jane’s uncompromising in your face vocals that could best be described as Mira Aroyo (Ladytron) mixed with Bjork and flickers of Tori Amos, having a Sunday afternoon drive in a formula one race car.

On Chrome Tape, Motormark an alternative pop/rock/electroclash approach that is often spastic, hyper, and downright frantic. They bring a long list of direct or indirect influences to this 43-minute CD (which was released in the U.K. in 2004 and the U.S. in 2005), and they include Ladytron, the B-52’s, Atari Teenage Riot, and Sonic Youth, and yes, that completely hidden but increasingly more important genre of German Neue Welle that I keep namedropping. It’s gotten so important, in fact, that I may just do an entire Jukebox Heart on the genre. We’ll see. Whatever, Motormark clearly gets a lot of inspiration from the infectious pop quirkiness of late-’70s/early-’80s new wave — especially the B-52’s. But Chrome Tape is much more abrasive and noisy than anything the B-52’s ever did, minus the surfy cheesy sci-fi rub, and ultra-nervous tracks like “We Are the Public” (click above to hear the CD track, and see them perform it Live down below) and “That’s What You Say When You Want Me to Kill You” confirm my impression that Motoro and Poloroid have been consuming way too much caffeine. Occasionally, Motormark slows things down and provides material that is moody and shadowy rather than manic; when that happens, the duo detours into somewhat Garbage-like territory. But more often than not, Chrome Tape thrives on highly caffeinated intensity. For all its anger and in-your-face punkiness, this is a fabulously fun album.

They have several other releases and a wealth of other youtube videos. Check them out!