The Pretty Things – Loneliest Person

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Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

The Pretty Things unfairly owe a bit of their fame to associations – bassist Dick Taylor was the original bassist for The Rolling Stones and David Bowie covered two gems by The Pretty Things for his 1973 covers record, Pin Ups. A shame they aren’t more of a household name – each of their albums from across their career offer up highlights that most bands would die for. 1968 saw the band releasing the very first Rock Opera with their S.F. Sorrow album – released a full year before The Who’s Tommy. As with most story based rock albums, the details can get a little confusing over the course of a record (though the gaps in the story were printed in the albums liner notes by way of paragraph like chapters). The story is very sad, involving a young man named Sebastian F. Sorrow whose dreams and aspirations do not turn out as planned. The album’s closing track, “Loneliest Person” is an acoustic masterpiece that just may be one of the saddest songs ever recorded. Phil May’s vocals are simply perfect, allowing the listener to empathize with the character’s plight by tapping into the universal feeling of wanting to be loved. Haven’t we all felt like S.F. Sorrow at some point? The track was released in 1969 as the flip side of “Baron Saturday”, also taken from the S.F. Sorrow album. The lyrics are simple but to the point, the chorus laying it all out there: “Yes, you might be the loneliest person in the world / You’ll never be as lonely as me”

Coffee Thoughts – An Interview With Amy Hill

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I recently had the chance to virtually sit down with Brighton, England’s Amy Hill, who recently released her debut album, Place of Mind. Amy’s record reminded me of the best bits from Jewel’s debut record, Pieces of You and is one of my favorite records of the year.

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Shuggie Otis – Strawberry Letter 23

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Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Sad to say, but I first became aware of Shuggie Otis with the 2001 David Byrne assisted reissue of 1974’s Inspiration Information. The CD cover hinted at some hip world of unheard acid jazz soul power and the music followed through on that promise (though the 2001 reissue cover wasn’t the original sleeve). As much as I loved the entire record, the track that I had instantly had to play over (and over) again was “Strawberry Letter 23”. The song was originally a part of Shuggie’s 1971 record, Freedom Flightbut was tacked onto the reissue as a “bonus track”. The song effortlessly encapsulates exhilaration, melancholy, and longing all within the span of its 4 minute run-time. The music breezes along on a ridiculously catchy groove making the moment when everything fades away with Shuggie singing “If you arrive and don’t see me / I’m going to be with my baby / I am free, flying in her arms / Over the sea” resonate all the more deeply. The track has been covered by quite a few acts (notably, The Brothers Johnson version hit #5 and is the version most people have heard). It was also featured in the Quentin Tarantino film Jackie Brown as well as the hit TV show Six Feet Under. This is one of those songs that gets under your skin the 1st time you hear it and never wears out its welcome. The lyrics quoted just above hint at the way the words effortlessly flow in poetic fashion. Truly, a masterpiece in words & music.

The Names – Nightshift

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Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

I’ve long been on record as Joy Division fanatic (and one of the few people in the world probably who loves Movement by New Order better than anything else they released). One of the reasons for this is the stellar musicianship in tandem with the ghostly echoes of Martin Hannett’s production work.  Like a geek I’ve collected everything Martin Hannett produced (it has only taken just shy of 20 years). My favorite band that he worked with besides Joy Division / New Order is The Names. The Names put out a few singles and a full length in the late 70’s / early 80’s – all gloomy post punk centered around bassist and songwriter Michel Smordynia. The bands 1982 single Nightshift (their 2nd overall) is a personal favorite as it bounces along on an eerie synth refrain and deadpan vocals. Is it the band or is it the producer? Always a valid question when Martin Hannett is involved and the answer is – yes. All parties involved in the creation of this track did a masterful job. Think of a band with a heavy Joy Division influence with less emotive vocals, and you are on the right track. The track itself peaked at #35 on the UK Indie Charts. The video matches the song perfectly and everything comes into focus as you sing along to these words:

Working a frightful nightshift
We’re just working a frightful nightshift

Everybody knows
That it’s just the way things go
Can’t eliminate desire
That explains the sad expression

The Dead Milkmen – Big Lizard in My Backyard

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Part 46 of a series that will run throughout 2013 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays

I received my driver’s license in the great state of Pennsylvania just shy of my 17th birthday (spring of 1994). This opened up a world of possibilities for me, from a geek’s perspective. Suddenly I could let my parents know that I was doing all sorts of activities locally (not true) while driving to Allentown, PA with a like-minded cohort. Our goal (as always) was to meet up with some girls we had met at some gathering or party (the same, I guess). In the world of a 17-year-old, all of this made total sense (the girl we both liked didn’t end up with either of us anyway) – but it was the trips to Play It Again Records in Allentown that stick with me almost 20 years later. On one such fateful journey my buddy picked up what he had heard was a punk rock classic from our home city of Philly. Over and over we played the ridiculously catchy pop-punk during our 45 minute drive home. Of course, I still wasn’t wearing my prescription glasses because they revealed me to be a geek, so our soundtrack as I drove into a median on the way home was Big Lizard In My Backyard by The Dead Milkmen. I’ve worn my contacts or glasses ever since by the way.

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