Lou Reed – Something Happened (1988)

When Lou Reed met Keanu Reeves – The Quiz: Only one of the following statements about the above clip is true:

It’s a scene from an unseen documentary about the band Dogstar, called Dogstar Rising: A sign from Lou.

It’s a clip from Keanu’s first paying gig as an actor, from an infomercial for Reed’s ill-fated line of fingerless guitar gloves called “Satellite Of Glove.”

In 1988, while in between record deals with RCA and SIRE records, Lou Reed wrote and recorded “Something Happened,” for a teen suicide drama called Permanent Record. He even made a cameo in the movie.

I’m not sure if “Something Happened,” has been released on any compilations, or just lives on this out-of-print soundtrack, but this is a classic Lou jam. A driving four-chord stomp with approximately one couplet. Wash, rinse, and repeat for about four minutes.  Let it rip!

Something Happened – Lou Reed

Ex-Holy Grail: The Velvet Underground “Squeeze”

VU_SqueezeNew Category Alert: Though it sounds like a Slanted-era Pavement song title, Ex-Holy Grail spotlights a once out-of-print artifact, now rendered pedestrian due to the digital age we live in.

Apparently every written documentation of this record is legally obligated to write the following line verbatim: Squeeze is a Velvet Underground album in name only.

The 1973 follow-up to Loaded featured not a single founding member of the Velvets.  Lou Reed left, and Sterling Morrison and Mo Tucker soon followed suit.  Multi-instrumentalist Doug Yule had the name all to himself.

In a pre-internet age, word of Squeeze was like a Record Store Clerk Tall Tale: Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, and an Out-Of-Print, Lou Reed-less Velvet Underground record that was never even released in America! Can you imagine?

Fast forward to the mid-nineties and the revelation that was Yahoo Search, and intrigue grew as we got to actually lay our eyes on the artwork for Squeeze.  It was even reminiscent of illustration for Loaded, same graphic illustration style also featuring a New York City based landmark enveloped by billowing energy.

Today you can listen to Squeeze on Spotify in all it’s mediocre glory, and while calling this your favorite Velvets record would be like calling Bob Weir’s “Good Lovin’” your favorite part of a Grateful Dead set, the album is interesting if only that it retroactively illustrates what Yule brought to it’s predecessor.

Before hearing Squeeze, one just assumed Lou Reed single handedly shape-shifted his usually complicated, personal, and din-soaked tunes into the simple, loose yet confident jams that made up Loaded.  The story goes that Mo Tucker was on maternity leave, Sterling Morrison went back to school at City College of New York, and Yule was Reed’s studio partner in crime, but ultimately that story was just liner note fodder.  Squeeze highlights what Loaded would have been without Reed’s genius, which is a collection of mid-tempo rockers with no soul, swagger, or lyrical depth.

Conversely, Yule’s work on Squeeze also highlights what Loaded would have been lacking without Yule.

Yule was the anti-John Cale.  Where Cale channeled the avant stylings of La Monte Young, and stoked Reed’s dissonant side, Yule brought basic chord progressions and poppy background harmonies to the table. This shouldn’t be underestimated.

Reed’s self-titled solo LP is full of studio musicians that often overplayed their parts and added of texture to tracks that didn’t need any. Yule was the centered middle ground that tempered Reed’s eccentricities, and netted a masterpiece.

You have to hand it to Yule for giving it the old college try on Squeeze, but unfortunately he was on the wrong side of rock history by carrying on with the Velvet Underground moniker.

Caroline – The Velvet Underground

Little Jack – The Velvet Underground

Trick or Treat (1986)

Tort_CoversOn October 21, 2015, Michael J. Fox took a well deserved victory lap for his role in the Back To The Future trilogy.

On October 31, 2015, we would like to give his Family Ties co-star Marc Price (aka Skippy) a victory lap of his own, in celebration of his lead role in the movie Trick Or Treat.

A classic hair metal horror tale of a young hessian, playing vinyl backwards, and summoning his rock idol back from the grave.

The soundtrack is scored by UK Hair Metal band Fastway, and they did a pretty great job of dialing up the Aquanet zeitgeist.

The film flopped, but the soundtrack re-established Fastway as a hard-hitting metal band. The soundtrack was a moderate success, and stayed on the Billboard Top 200 chart for eleven months. The success of the soundtrack, combined with the very little money the band received, caused in-fighting, and the group disbanded. – Wikipedia

The film also boasts some cameos from Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne, both playing it straight, which was a nice twist. Also of note is the Cinematographer on this film, Robert Elswit, who worked on just about every of Paul Thomas Anderson film.

Rabbit Hole: Del Shannon

Down the Rabbit Hole with Del Shannon, the man who would have been the next Wilbury:

Pepsi GenerationDel Shannon and his falsetto commanding you to drink Pepsi Cola via the mid-sixties.

The Traveling Wilburys – “Runaway” Rumor had it that Jeff Lynne and the rest of his Wilbury brethern had designs to replace the late Roy Orbison with Del Shannon, and that this cover version of “Runaway,” with Jeff Lynne on vocals, was recorded in an effort to recruit Shannon.

Del Shannon Runaway ’67From the Andrew Loog Oldham sessions.  This orchestral remake of Del’s biggest hit could count future heavyweights Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones as two of the session musicians.

Tom Petty – “Runnin Down A Dream” – It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down / I had the radio on, I was drivin’ / Trees flew by, me and Del were singin’ little Runaway.

Eruption – “Runaway” – This Disco cover of “Runaway,” lives in its own universe, and yet stays surprisingly true to the original.

Del Shannon – The House Where Nobody Lived / Gemini

Del_KscopeSticking with the theme of Baby Boomer icons jettisoning their squeaky clean images in order to get more traction with the burgeoning counter culture, we turn to Del Shannon and his mid-to-late sixties recording sessions.

In 1966 Del had gotten out of a dicey record contract and was free to continue chasing the dragon of his 1961 smash single “Runaway.” He eventually signed with album oriented label Liberty Records.

From 1966 to 1967 Liberty paired him up with various production teams to help him climb his way back the single charts.  Leon Russell and Tommy Garrett had first crack at him, before he was paired with in-house producer Dallas Smith.  These intermittent sessions were the usual mix of covers and originals, and ultimately made up the two 1966 albums This Is My Bag and Total Commitment. Neither album made a significant dent in the charts.

By the Fall of 1966, a dejected Shannon was able to arrange a recording session with Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, the hit-making team behind The Monkees.  They recorded three songs: “She,” “Stand Up,” and “The House Where Nobody Lives.”  “She,” got moderate airplay before being squelched by The Monkees’ version that was released soon after.

“The House Where Nobody Lives,” the planned follow-up to “She,” was shelved and remained unreleased for years, which is too bad. The song beautifully re-captures the magic Shannon’s breakthrough “Runaway.”  The jangly reverb of the opening chords, the vocal hooks, the fugitive tinged lyrics, and of course Max Crook’s signature musitron accompaniment.

1967 saw Shannon recording an unreleased full length album with famed Rolling Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham called Home and Away.  When that album was shelved, Shannon turned his attention to the trends of the time and by the Fall was putting the finishing touches on his “Psychedelic” leaning album The Further Adventures of Charles Westover.

Westover, Shannon’s birth name, was comprised entirely of original songs written or co-written by Shannon. Though relatively overlooked at the time, The Further Adventures of Charles Westover became a minor cult classic, and in the 90’s was re-mastered on CD with many bonus tracks, including the unreleased Boyce/Hart session and some of the Loog Oldham tracks.  

In 2014 the album was beautifully remastered on vinyl by the venerable Trouble In Mind Records, with artwork restoration by Chunklet’s Henry Owings.

The House Where Nobody Lives – Del Shannon

Gemini – Del Shannon

Would be some sort of bibliographical violation not to source: delshannon.com

Chubby Checker – Chequered! (1971)

Chubby_ChequeredChubby Checker’s Chequered! is a key artifact to understanding my fascination with esoteric pop culture moments that live on the fringe of the entertainment business.

Chequered! was Chubby Checker’s unreleased Psychedelic Album from the 70s.

The first time someone told me about it, they mine as well have been telling me about the legend of Robert Johnson.

The story I heard was that Checker was listening to a ton of Jimi Hendrix and Arthur Lee, and wanted to update his sound and image to reflect the changing times.  American record labels, however, did not agree with his proposed image makeover, and he was forced to take his ideas overseas. Checker then traveled to Norway, recruited a bunch of psychedelic studio musicians, and laid down his jams.

The thought of the clean cut Chubby Checker, who had spent the better part of a decade exploiting “The Twist,” finding himself exiled overseas and letting his freak flag fly was gold to me. The fact the record was never officially released in America made it a unicorn record.  The album has since been officially re-issued.

A more elegant and accurate account of Chequered! can be found here.

Check out two of the more catchy and endearing gems from the Chequered one.

Goodbye Victoria – Chubby Checker

Love Tunnel – Chubby Checker

Rabbit Hole: The Novelty Era Singles of The Fat Boys


Before we revel in the imagery of the novelty hits of The Fat Boys, take a listen to this legit piece on the Fat Boys via npr.org and Oliver Wang of the esteemed Soul Sides.


Now behold this fine collection of imagery and choices that the trio made upon searching for that wider crossover audience.  They definitely went for it, complete with a cover of the Beatles “Baby, You’re A Rich Man,” from their 1987 comedy vehicle Disorderlies, with the great Ralph Bellamy.




Krush Groove – Soundtrack (1985)

Krush_OSTI’m Sheila E and I want to say
that I’m a super high powered, cold-krushin’ lady
and I’m here to talk about this thing called rap
to all the party people at the party that’s packed

– Sheila E “Krush Groovin'”

The above lyrics from Sheila E pretty much sum up the entire problem with Krush Groove.  The movie is about a rap label, called Krush Groove Records, and yet here is one of the leads of the movie referring to the genre as “this thing called rap.” The stand-offish attitude towards rap is what made the movie so disingenuous.

The soundtrack reinforces how uncomfortable the studio was with is subject matter.  Here we are with a movie about the origins of Def Jam records, yet the soundtrack is on Warner Brothers records and consists mostly of R&B. Furthermore there are only two Def-Jam artists on the record.  The Beastie Boys and LL Cool J.

LL Cool J’s “I Can’t Live Without My Radio,” remains a classic.

“She’s On It,” is an early working blueprint for the multi-platinum License To Ill-era Beastie Boys (power chords, drum machine, sophomoric mysogyny, guitar solo,) but it’s clear that Rubin and the Beasties were still honing their craft. It’s a one trick pony that despite clocking in at only three and a half minutes, feels twice as long.

The track somewhat illustrates how pre-mature this movie was green-lit. Def Jam didn’t yet have the juice, or the goods, to warrant the spotlight.

The Beastie Boys – She’s On It

Krush Groove All Stars – Krush Groovin’

Krush Groove: A Failed Mission From God, and The Looming Spectre of Prince


Tricks are for kids he plays much gigs
He’s a big bad wolf and you’re the three pigs
He’s a big bad wolf in your neighborhood
Not bad meaning bad, but bad meaning good

– Run-DMC, “Peter Piper” (Raising Hell, 1986)

When Run-DMC were spitting out those couplets in 1986, life was good meaning good.

Their third LP, Raising Hell, had spawned two gigantic singles, they were arguably rap’s first bonafide crossover sensation, and more impressively, the duo had survived being two of the protagonists in the 1985 Warner Brothers film Krush Groove, which was a really bad film.  Bad meaning bad.

Naturally, when I saw that Krush Groove was on HBO-GO recently, not only did I watch it, but I also revisited the soundtrack, which I found in the dollar bin within the last year.

The fact that both the movie and the LP would enter my periphery roughly 30 years later had to be a sign. I like to think of it as God’s way of telling me to start a blog that no one will read, to revisit a movie that no one should revisit.

So it goes.

My initial direction for this very post, was to write a few paragraphs about how Warner Bros. Films attempted an extremely lukewarm entry point into the world of Hip Hop, and basically hedged their bets on making a movie about rap, just in case it was a passing fad.

Krush Groove is literally credited to be “loosely based on the life of Russell Simmons,” budding rap mogul, and yet only four of the ten songs featured on the Soundtrack can even be considered rap songs.  Chaka Kahn, Shiela E, Debbie Harry, and Force MD’s get just as much real estate as The Fat Boys,The Beastie Boys, and LL Cool J.

That was my pre-conceived theme in a nutshell.

But as I re-watched the movie for the first time in decades, I got derailed by two things: The non-existent character development of Blair Underwood’s Russell Walker, and the looming spectre Prince.

ITEM ONE: The Awful Character Development of Russell Walker.

In the opening minutes of Krush Groove, we learn that Run-DMC has the hottest selling single in New York City.  It’s so hot that their manager, Run’s brother Russell, doesn’t have enough cash to keep the record in print.

What does Russell do? He goes to church to borrow money from his father, the Reverend, who is played by Simmon’s actual father.  Rather then lend Russell the money, the good Reverend tells Russell that he is being challenged by God to raise the money on his own.

THEME STATED: Russell is on a mission from God to to keep his fledgling label afloat.

You can watch for yourself in the edit below, but the movie pretty much defies the golden rule of screenwriting, in that you are suppose to see (and root for) your protagonist to transform for the better throughout the movie.

In Krush Groove, Russell doesn’t get money from his father, but he also doesn’t rise to the occasion to raise the money himself. Instead he borrows money from Jay B, a local crime lord.

As we enter the final act of the movie, Russell has been rejected by his father, he has lost Run-DMC to a rival label, and is in debt to Jay B and his jehri-curled thugs.  Certainly he is ready to prove his worth and earn his own keep, right?

Not really. Ultimately he just ends up borrowing money from Run to pay off his debt to Jay B.

Roll the credits. The same credits that spell MCA’s name as Adam Youck.

ITEM TWO: The Looming Spectre of Prince.

I couldn’t help but notice the ubiquity of Prince throughout the movie. This is a movie called Krush Groove, centering around a fictional rap label called Krush Groove Records, based on Def Jam Recordings, and yet rap music essentially gets second billing.

It’s as if the studio didn’t know how to fully market rap music yet, and figured anything centering around Prince’s Paisley Park scene would satiate the urban demographic for this film.  Krush Groove was released just a year out from Prince/Warner Bros. breakthrough Purple Rain.  The purple one was white hot, and this movie serves as a constant reminder that this was Prince’s world, and these rappers just lived in it.


The first sign of Prince comes in the form of Sheila E, the anointed chanteuse of the movie.  Sheila E. was Prince’s protege at the time.

When we first visit Sheila at her apartment, it’s Prince’s portrait that we see in her living room.

When Run-DMC visit Run’s father, and explain that they have a big selling record. He dresses them down with a belittling comparison to Prince.

Then we have Force MD’s “Tender Love,” the love theme of Krush Groove, which was written by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Two Minneapolis based producers and founding members of The Time.

The best Prince touchstone, by a long shot, comes in the form of Sheila E’s performance of “A Love Bizarre,” a song co-written by Prince, and featuring a healthy dose of Prince accompaniment.  The clip below sees Prince’s part as lip synched by New Wave Adrian Brody. Big ups to this guy for not shying away from the task.



Silver Jews – They saw B.B. King on General Hospital

Silver Jews_DallasAmerican Water is not a Pavement album, but could play one on TV,” opened a blurb I once read in a popular magazine in regards to the Silver Jews 1998 release. While the literary hook may seem like a lazy analogy for the initiated, I fully endorse the author’s clever attempt to hip some indie-minded readers to “a Pavement side project.”  Stephen Malkmus’s presence is strong on Water, after all.

For the initiated, however, The Silver Jews true breakout record was their sophomore LP, The Natural Bridge. This is a David Berman affair from start to finish. A stellar collection of ramshackle tunes with a well calibrated lyrical mix of sublime and wit.

The track Dallas, stands out with one of the best opening lines in the game.

I passed out on the fourteenth floor,
The CPR was so erotic.

We saw B.B.King on General Hospital
in the Oak Cliff dramhouse where we stayed
and when Clancy whipped her with his belt buckle
he cleaned her cuts and then we prayed

O Dallas you shine with an evil light
Don’t you know that God stays up all night?
And how did you turn a billion steers
into buildings made of mirrors,
and why am I drawn to you tonight?

The Natural Bridge showcases Berman’s lyrical gifts at length, but something about this song seems to be the perfect storm of Bermanisms. A fever dream meditation of a drug induced adventure, a civil war era character in Clancy, and a waxing on the bovine industrialization of a city.

“We saw B.B. King on General Hospital,” is classic line. How does Berman come up with this stuff?  Well, after only 19 years of listening to this song, it finally struck me that Berman probably actually saw B.B. King on General Hospital.

A simple YouTube search confirms. Dig that intro from the infamous Luke! He sees lots of Others. Nothing at all awkward here in this video of soap actors pretending to be into the blues.


Silver Jews – Dallas