The Smiths “What Difference Does It Make?” 1984. 12″ single, Rough Trade Records. Though Morrissey and Johnny Marr have stated this single from The Smiths’ debut album is one of their least favorites, it’s one of my top Smiths songs; I love the propulsive beat, the urgency of the guitar and the choice lines of lyrics (i.e. “the devil will find work for idle hands to do, I stole and I lied and why? because you asked me to” and “your prejudice won’t keep you warm tonight”). It became The Smiths first hit, making it to #12 in the UK. This is one of the later pressings of “What Difference Does It Make?” – a few early ones feature Morrissey holding a glass of milk as Terence Stamp initially denied permission for the still from the movie The Collector to be used (he obviously change his mind and most pressings have this photo as the cover).
Side B has “Back To the Old House,” a slow and lovely classic Smiths lament, and “These Things Take Time,” which is much more upbeat but super angsty, so perfect for teenage ears in the 80′s: “Oh, the alcoholic afternoons, When we sat in your room, They meant more to me than any, than any living thing on earth…Vivid and in your prime,You will leave me behind.”
Reblogging myself: The Smiths “What Difference Does It Make?” released on this date, January 16th, 1984.
MC5 “Back in the USA” released 50 years ago today, January 15th, 1970. Back in the USA is MC5′s first studio album release, following their live record Kick Out the Jams from 1969. I love the cover: gritty, sweaty 70′s boozed-up dirtballs who looked like they just crawled out of their tour van after 3 weeks with no showers. It was a commercial flop at the time of its release, but in retrospect has been hailed as among the top 500 albums of all-time and helped to usher in punk a bit later in the 70′s.
Back in the USA has two classic rock-n-roll covers: Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” and the title track, Chuck Berry’s “Back in the USA.” The rest of the album is MC5 stripped-down originals, including a lovely ballad (“Let Me Try”) and hard rocking tracks with insane guitar (“Looking at You”). Always a highly political band, MC5 included plenty of social commentary on late 60′s/early 70′s youth (“High School” “Teenage Lust”) and anti-Vietnam War songs that ‘condemn a system which eats its young, filling their heads with lies before sending them off to war’ (“The American Ruse”) (Allmusic’s Jason Ankeny).
Mudhoney “You Stupid Asshole” and Gas Huffer “Knife Manual” 1992. European import, Split 12” on Musical Tragedies and Empty Records. Spinning “You Stupid Asshole” – originally by the Angry Samoans (1980) – today as a certain major VIP is rallying in our city. I love both the original and Mudhoney’s slightly grunged-up version. Another fave is Gas Huffer’s “Knife Manual,” a cover of the Silly Killers’ 1982 punk single (their sole release). Also on this split single is Mudhoney’s “March to Fuzz,” which appears on an Estrus comp from 1991 (The 12 Drunkest Bands in Showbiz), and Gas Huffer’s “Firebug,” originally a single from 1989 and also on their 1991 LP Janitors of Tomorrow. We picked up this 12” in London this past summer at Flashback Records, I’m pretty sure the Islington location which was within walkable distance (a lengthy one) of our apartment. I usually remove pricetags from our crate digging scores but not this time.
The Weeks “Two Moons” 2019. Romanus Records, limited edition (50) Glow-In-the-Dark Sand-Filled vinyl (first of its kind!). Two Moons is The Weeks’ 7th release (also available on Crooked Letter Records though probably not on nearly as cool vinyl); they’ve been around since 2006 when guys were young teens. Hailing from Mississippi, The Weeks are an indie/alternative band with a southern twinge. It’s hard to avoid Kings of Leon comparisons: southern indie rock composed of siblings (The Weeks have twins Cain and Cyle Barnes, Kings of Leon has a slew of Followills) plus The Weeks signed to Kings of Leon’s label Serpents and Snakes, putting out two albums in 2012 and 2013. (All of that said, I really like The Weeks and not so much Kings of Leon, mainly because of the vocals. Cyle Barnes vocals are rich and melodic while I find Caleb Followill’s voice whiny and irritating. Sorry!) My top tracks on Two Moons are “Paper Mache Houses,” a really lovely anthemic indie ballad, “Comin’ Down,” a hard-driving rocker (those two tracks I blogged about previously after getting the single on a coffee-and-creamer filled 45, also on Romanus Records), “Believe Whatever,” another rocker, “Scared of the Sunshine” which has a fabulously groovy bass line and little tinges of southern psychedelia, and “Fools Gold” which reminds me a bit of Pearl Jam with a little less grunge.
David Bowie “Space Oddity” originally released as “David Bowie” in the UK, 1969 and as “Man of Words/Man of Music” in the US – I’m spinning this 1972 reissue on RCA Records in honor of David Bowie’s birthday (b. David Robert Jones, 1947, d. 2016). David Bowie/Space Oddity was Bowie’s second studio album and his first big breakthrough with the opening track, “Space Oddity” which he released as a single in July 1969 in commemoration of the moon landing that month. “Space Oddity” was Bowie’s first single to chart in the UK: British radio only began playing the track once the mission was successful (on July 20th – Bowie released the track on July 11th) and the crew returned safely to earth (July 24th). “Space Oddity” hit #5 in the UK but failed to crack the top 100 in the US (#124). The album, however, did not chart until 1972 with the reissue when it to #17 in the UK and then to #16 in the US in ‘73 (when “Space Oddity” charted again, this time at #16). The rest of the album is a mix of weird-spacey, glammy Bowie (like “Space Oddity”) and hippie/folk prog rock (like the second track “Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed” which to me sounds like a mashup of Grateful Dead and early Tyrannosaurus Rex before Marc Bolan switched it to T. Rex, backed with a strong Bo Diddley beat). (Another aside – I recently listened to a Bowie tribute book, I think by Rob Sheffield, who recounted that back in Bowie’s early days when he and Marc Bolan were in stiff competition for a similar audience and Bolan was on the winning end, Bolan hired Bowie to open for one of T. Rex’s shows – but not as a musical performer. Instead as a mime. Hilarious. And rude. Though they must have made up to some degree because Bolan is one of the backing vocalists on this album’s closing track, “Memory of a Free Festival.”) Our ‘72 reissue does not include the hidden track after “Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed,” a 40 second Jerry Garcia-ish jam called “Don’t Sit Down” which appeared on the original UK David Bowie release but was subsequently included on reissues from the 1990′s forward. According to Wiki, Bowie wrote the next sweet little track “Letter to Hermione” for his former girlfriend, Hermione Farthingdale (and here I’d like to thank JK Rowling for giving me the knowledge of how to pronounce ‘Hermione’) and “Cygnet Committee” which concludes Side A is an epic spacey masterpiece that hints at 70′s era Bowie, especially Ziggy Stardust. Side B starts with “Janine” (rocking the folky, hippie vein), then “An Occasional Dream” (both folky and spacey, with pan flute!), “The Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud” (proggy, with a 50-piece orchestra), “God Knows I’m Good” (folky in the flavor of Bob Dylan) and “Memory of A Free Festival” (another prog-epic that features prominent organ and devotional Beatlesesque chant extended chorus – churchy!).
Mutts “Stuck Together” 2019. Romanus Records, “Tin Foil Hat” variant, very limited edition (45 copies). From Chicago (though singer/frontman/keyboardist Mike Maimone just moved to Nashville a month or so ago), Mutts are one of my favorite Midwest bands: at times all-out rocking and others bluesy, jazzy and soulful – all with gravely Tom Waits-ish vocals – Mutts also put on a hell of a show (we last caught them at Appleton’s Mile of Music this past August after a tremendous rainstorm).
Stuck Together is Mutts’ 7th or so release in the past 10 years (including EP’s). My top tracks are (not surprisingly) the rockers like “Better Believe It” (check out the insane Mad Max-inspired video they shot for this – it’s also funny because it’s as if Mad Max had an 80′s era band van and because the characters Mutts inhabit are really nothing like how they are in real life: from my interactions with them, they are really really nice guys), “Treason,” “Tin Foil Hat” (another hilarious video, this one shot a few years ago) and “Let’s Go.” “Let’s Go” is so damn good – they re-recorded or remixed it for Stuck Together; it has previously appeared on their 2017 Stick Together EP (so did “Tin Foil Hat” and the opening track on this LP “I’ll Be Around;” the 2017 EP also marks the addition of current drummer Ian Tsan who replaced ) as well as their 2019 retrospective LP Hey, We Are All Mutts. It deserves to be on all three releases because this song is fantastic – in my top 10 for this past year. I also really dig the heavy beat hypnotic (sort-of) title track “Stick Together” which closes out the album.
U2 “New Year’s Day” 1983, 12″ single. Happy New Year, 2020! “New Year’s Day” was the lead single from U2′s third album War (released in February ‘83). It was U2′s first top 10 in England (it went to #2 in their native Ireland) as well as their first international hit, going to #53 in the US, #36 in Australia and #41 in Canada. This 12″ features the “Long Version” – which is just 4 seconds longer than the album version so it pretty much sounds exactly the same. Also included on the 12″ is another big U2 anthemic track, “Treasure (Whatever Happened to Pete the Chop)” plus live versions performed in Werchter, Belgium on July 4th, 1982: “Fire,” “I Threw a Brick Through a Window” (both from October) and “A Day Without Me” (from Boy).
Pearl Jam “Who Killed Rudolph?” 1992. It’s Festivus and also Eddie Vedder’s 55th birthday (b. Edward Louis Severson III, 1964) so I’m spinning Pearl Jam’s limited edition promo ‘Christmas’ single – but it’s not really a holiday song at all. Rather, Side A is a fairly faithful cover, Vedder’d up, of Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer” (from the 1977 LP Young, Loud and Snotty though originally written during the Rocket From the Tombs days). Side B is “Ramblings Continued” (the first “Ramblings” from which these are “continued” appears as the flip side to their 1991 limited edition promo single “Let Me Sleep,” also a Christmas release), about 4 minutes of sound clips that include stuff from TV and movies snippets of Christmas carols, and badly recorded conversations.
Rolling Stones “Let It Bleed” 1969. I’m spinning the Stones 8th studio LP today, December 18th, because it’s not only Keith Richards’ birthday (b. 1943) but it’s also Stones’ session and touring saxophonist Bobby Keys birthday (b. 1943, d. 2014). Let It Bleed was Keys’ first Stones album (he’d play on several more); he also was the partner-in-crime for many of Richards’ escapades during their American tour in 1969 just prior to Let It Bleed’srelease on December 5th, 1969 (I recently read Richards’ autobiography Life from 2009 and, wow, it’s amazing they both lived to see 70 years of age).
Let It Bleed was a pivotal recording and a massive hit, going to #1 in the UK and #3 in the US. It not only is included on many best-of lists (records, songs like “Gimme Shelter” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”) but is also viewed by many popular culture historians as the record that marked the end of the 60′s – not only in its release timing but also turning a view of the world from the happy, hippie flower power energy that infused youth culture to one of darkness, violence and destruction (helped along, of course, by the disastrous Stones concert at Altamont the day after Let It Bleed’s release).
Our version of Let It Bleed is an early US edition. The cover of Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain” (the only cover song on the LP) is credited to Woody Payne in the liner notes and according to Wiki marks it as an early pressing (Woody Payne was a pseudonym of Johnson’s). The whole album is seeped in American blues and honky tonk and my favorite tracks are “Gimmie Shelter” (how it’s spelled on the cover and the inner sleeve of our copy), “Let It Bleed” and “Midnight Rambler.” I do like “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” but I kind of over-listened to it in the 80′s when it was included on The Big Chill soundtrack.
Ministry “Greatest Fits” 2001/2018, double LP reissue on Run Out Grooves, blue and grey marbled vinyl. A great collection of Ministry’s hard industrial dance/metal singles from 1988 to 2001. Despite seeing Ministry’s somewhat disappointing show about a couple years ago, I still really love Ministry. This comp has some of their best including “Stigmata” and “The Land of Rape and Honey” (from the 1988 Land of Rape and Honey), “Thieves” and “So What” (from 1989′s The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste – the version of “So What” on this comp is a live version from a performance in 1994) and three tracks from their hit album 1992 LP Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs including the Grammy-nominated “N.W.O.,” “Just One Fix” and “Jesus Built My Hotrod” which features Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes. (Sidenote: Ministry recorded Psalm 69 at studios in both Chicago and in a small town not that far from Milwaukee – Lake Geneva – which makes me laugh because it’s one of those bucolic Wisconsin communities full of tourists, cheese shops, fudge….and Ministry!) From the less-successful Filth Pig (1996) are Ministry’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” (hilarious, mainly because I really don’t like Dylan’s original) and the 12″ single version of “Reload.” “Supermanic Soul” and “Bad Blood” are included from 1999′s Dark Side of the Spoon. Two non-Ministry album tracks are also on Greatest Fits: “What About Us?” from the 2001 movie A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, directed by Steven Spielberg and a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut,” a song much more in line with Ministry’s sound than Dylan’s. Both the Dylan and Sabbath cover songs were later included on Ministry’s all-cover song album Cover Up (2008).