Apparently totally shredding in Chicago's favorite pop-garage combo (CoCoComa) and having a really cute three month-old kid isn't enough for Big States buddies Bill & Lisa Roe, as we just got word they're starting a record label.


Trouble In Mind
looks to be focused on 7" records for the time being, with the debut release (a CoCoComa single) coming August 13th. Future releases promise international jams from White Wires and Sonic Chicken 4, and showings from Bay Area favorites Ty Segall and The Fresh & Onlys.






The nice boys in the Wu-Tang Clan have made their pre-36 Chambers demo tape available as a free download. Decidedly lo-fi, the recordings are nevertheless exciting in an artifact kind of way; interesting to see a snapshot of future masters developing their craft.



Legendary avant-garde coreographer Merce Cunningham has died. After forming the Merce Cunningham Dance Company at Black Mountain College in 1953, Cunningham moved to Manhattan, where he lived and worked for the rest of his 70 year career. A tireless collaborator, Cunningham worked with everyone from David Tudor to Robert Rauschenberg and John Cage, his life partner of 50 years. He was 90 years old.



In addition to being a nice guy and an extremely charismatic front man (first in teen-freaks The Catheters, then Tall Birds, and now Idle Times) Seattle's Brian Standeford is one hell of a poster artist. A weird pastiche of 80's DIY and 60's psychedlia, Brian's posters highlight the sinister nature of underground rock'n'roll; his work is both repellent and somehow beguiling.




See more at Gig Posters. And if you're in the Seattle area this afternoon, you can see Brian in action at the Capitol Hill Block Party, where he'll be playing bass for the Dutchess & the Duke.



A while back Reference Library posted some interesting photos of Paolo Soleri working at Arcosanti that led me to a series of pictures made in the 1970s for LIFE Magazine. Taken by Nina Leen, the photographs document artisan American crafters at work dyeing yarn, spinning pottery and blacksmithing, among other things.





The 1962 film This Is Ska- despite its goofy ethnographic dance lesson/artifact pretense- captured some pretty incredible footage of future reggae heavy-weights. Part one focuses on the exotic, "anyone can do it" nature of of "ska steps." Parts 2, 3, and 4 features early performances by the Maytals, Jimmy Cliff and Prince Buster, among others, all filmed live at the Sombrero Club in Jamaica.


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4



The Fascinations were, among other things, the perfect vehicle for Curtis Mayfield's pop songwriting. While his songs with the Impressions were getting funkier and more socially conscious, the Fascinations' sides show just how good Mayfield was at crafting straight, buoyant pop. Originally from Detroit, the Fascinations sound less like classic Mayfield soft soul and more like a synthesis of Motown-style ebullience with the nuance of Chicago soul. One gets the sense that he saw them as viable competitors with the Motown Sound™. And while Curtis' role with the Opals and the other OKeh artists was as songwriter or in collaboration with Carl Davis, Mayfield was much more involved with the Fascinations, writing, producing, and performing on their recordings. At times they can sound almost like the Impressionettes.

Hold On

But all the credit shouldn't just go to Mayfield. Lead singer Bernadine Boswell Smith's voice is totally amazing-- girlish and raw and so, so good. Sounding like she's constantly singing in the red, she transforms snappy little teen pop into awesome declarations of love and heartbreak.

Take, for instance, the first song Mayfield cut with them on ABC-Paramount:

The Fascinations - Mama Didn't Lie

Jan Bradley had already scored a hit with the song a year or two earlier (Although the liner notes to the Curtom Story seem to suggest Mayfield originally wrote the song for the Fascinations):

Jan Bradley - Mama Didn't Lie

Where Bradley's voice sounds clear and innocent, Boswell Smith sings with gospel-style force. The Fascinations' version is a more spirited recording, but in an era during which Motown was still coaching the blackness out of singers' voices, it wasn't really "hit material." I will say the Bradley version is beautifully produced-- great bottom end.

For the hell of it, here's a Joe Meek produced version by Flip & the Dateliners:

Flip & the Dateliners - Mama Didn't Lie

Sounds like 70s Cambodian pop. When I hear Joe Meek I think, Timbaland who? If only Meek would've stuck around long enough to record with Beyonce. They would give a whole new meaning to great bottom end. Alas, the world can only sustain so many "king's of men" at once.

Anyway, the Fascinations next single was "Tears in my Eyes." It failed to do much and ABC dropped them soon after.

Tears in my Eyes

When, in 1966, Mayfield formed his own label (Mayfield) he focused on pushing the Fascinations. The first release was the song "Say It Isn't So." It was a hit in Chicago but failed nationally.

Say It Isn't So

You can really hear the Motown influence on the flip-side:

I'm So Lucky (He Loves Me)

Their next single, "Girls Are Out to Get You," was their one bona fide hit, reaching #13 on the R&B charts, and scraping the pop charts. In the early seventies the song was a hit in the UK, inspiring a brief Fascinations reunion for an overseas tour.

Girls Are Out to Get You

b/w You'll Be Sorry

The b-side is one of my favorite Fascinations tunes. I've been listening to it on repeat for the last few days. When I played it for the ol' GF, she looked totally bored and said "I always forget you like this kind of music." So I guess it's not for everyone.

If you like what you hear, an out-of-print compilation is posted over at the blog Soulful Divas ---> HERE



The Opals: (from left) Myra Tillotson, Juanita Tucker and Rosie Addison

The Opals were one of the great Chicago girl groups. And while only three singles were released under the Opals moniker they can be heard on songs by Major Lance, Otis Leavill, Betty Everett and Walter Jackson. Next to The Fascinations (who I'll post about soon) the Opals are one of my favorite of the many Curtis Mayfield related groups.

Hailing from East Chicago, IN, they were discovered in 1962 by The Dells while performing in Gary. The seasoned group (together since the early fifties), by Mickey McGill's account, "took them as little kids and showed them how to sing and everything." Most importantly, The Dells brought the girls to Vee-Jay where they sang back-up on several hits -- most notably Betty Everett's smash "The Shoop Shoop Song." Eventually they were presented to Chicago A&R man Carl Davis, who would produce their recordings for OKeh.

Their first single was a Billy Butler authored tune called "Does it Matter."

Does It Matter

b/w Tender Lover

But the next release, in the summer of 1964, "You Can't Hurt Me No More," was their first sizable local hit and a perfect showcase for the mid-sixties OKeh sound-- produced by Carl Davis, authored by Curtis Mayfield and arranged by Johnny Pate. It's a beauty.

You Can't Hurt Me No More

b/w You're Gonna Be Sorry

Their final single was an old R&B number written and recorded by the Dells in the fifties called "Restless Days," backed with a Mayfield song called "I'm So Afraid." "Afraid" managed to chart, but The Opals broke up soon after.

Restless Days

I'm So Afraid

A few years ago, around the release of the film Dream Girls, Dave Hoekstra of the Sun-Times, traveled with Rosie Addison to Carl Davis' home to talk about the OKeh days. Despite some clunky comparisons to Jennifer Hudson ("Like Hudson, the Opals grew up in church"), the piece is pretty charming. Read it here.



Famed photographer of modernist architecture Julius Shulman died yesterday in Los Angeles.

What always struck me about Shulman's pictures is their playfulness. Shulman managed to capture the humanity behind the imposing shapes and sharp angles of mid-century buildings, and allowed the structures to seem both otherworldly and remarkably accessible. The inclusion of people, nature, and clutter helps to normalize otherwise alien structures, and at the same time highlights the innovations and creativity on display in the buildings. RIP.






Sorry to be so Memphis-centric lately, but Turn It Down just published a great (and LONG!) interview with Greg Cartwright of Compulsive Gamblers/Oblivians/Reigning Sound fame. In addition to the much-hyped Oblivians reunion this summer, Cartwright is reuniting the Compulsive Gamblers in September for Gonerfest 6, and the Reigning Sound have a new album, Love & Curses, out August 11th on the venerable In The Red Records.

For those unable to catch the Oblivians/Gamblers shows or wait for the new record, we've got a string of live recordings the Reigning Sound made at New Jersey's legendary WFMU radio station.

WFMU Sessions, Part 1

1 - Drowning
2 - Since When
3 - I'm So Thankful
4 - West Texas Sound
5 - I'll Cry
6 - I Don't Need That Kind Of Lovin'
7 - Carol
8 - Suspicious Minds
9 - Reptile Style
10 - You Don't Hear the Music
11 - She's Bored With You
12 - Walkin' the Dog
13 - You're So Strange

WFMU Session, Part 2

1 - If You Can't Give Me Everything
2 - Your Love Is A Fine Thing
3 - I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys
4 - Straight Shooter
5 - Darling I Need You Now
6 - When You Touch Me
7 - Two Thieves
8 - Brown Paper Sack
9 - Uptight Tonight
10 - Wait And See
11 - We Repel Each Other
12 - I'll Cry
13 - Tennessee
14 - You Got Me Hummin'

WFMU Sessions, Part 3: Acoustic

1 - As Long
2 - Since When
3 - I Don't Care
4 - Goodbye




Dersu Uzala Akira Kurosawa, 1975

Days of Heaven Terrence Malick, 1978



As the Goreblivians Reunion Tour (tm) makes its way across the Continent, the live recordings are slowly trickling in.

The Gories - Live in Paris


And stateside, for good measure:

The Gories - Live in Detroit


The Oblivians - Live in Paris






Bad Girl, Pt. 1

One of the great under-heard soul records, Time And Place by Lee Moses, saw a pretty deluxe CD/LP reissue a while back. The LP is now out of print (like it was for the 30 years before the reissue) and the CD has been relegated to the high-priced import section of your local Amazon. It's a shame because to my mind, reissues should make the previously unavailable widely available, and not just to those willing fork over the big bucks at Dusty Groove.


Reach Out, I'll Be There- MP3

Thankfully, the internet has everything anyone could ever want, and Time And Place is available right here.



"Parade — Hoboken, New Jersey” by Robert Frank

Van Morrison - Almost Independence Day

I don't doubt fireworks "echoing up and down the San Francisco Bay" could really be pretty evocative, but this Dead Moon song better suggests the atmosphere in my neighborhood:

Dead Moon - Fire In The Western World

The bombs are really bursting. Happy 4th ya'll.



Footage shot by Andy Hummel and Chris Bell, documenting power-pop legends Big Star recording their debut album #1 Record at Memphis institution Ardent Studios.

Hat tip to Ready For The House.



Our weekend started off a little rough: Friday morning storms canceled all flights out of O'Hare. Thanks to snap decisions and an intrepid traveling companion, we were in a rental car (mid-size, even!) and flying down I-57 by noon. Nine hours later, we pulled up to the Hi-Tone only to discover that the doors weren't open, and that our friends were drinking at the nearby Lamplighter Lounge. A round or two and back to the show.

The scene inside

The Gories played first, and despite the sweltering mid-south heat, one practice, and a sick vocalist, they did alright. Part of the Gories' charm is the heroic amount of traction they can squeeze out of two chords and stripped-down trap kit. Friday was no different, and though it would have been a pleasure to hear Mick's smooth baritone a little more, the Gories sounded about as shitty as ever; which is to say, pretty great.

Under the beer tent. The guy with the hair runs Rocket Science Audio, the mobile studio responsible for recording everything that matters in Memphis.

The Oblivians took the stage and killed it, running through a set packed full of hits. Robin and Kyle from Rocket Science Audio recorded the whole thing and were kind enough to post a couple tracks:

Guitar Shop Asshole

Mad Lover

Ain't No Sicko

We got to bed at a reasonable hour, as we had designs on touring Memphis Saturday before the day shows at Murphy's. Despite our best intentions, the heat put an end to any real day-time high-jinks. After Bryant's for breakfast we headed downtown to poke around A. Schwab's. Beale Street is a nightmare, sort of like if Disneyland had a section where one could buy those "yard of beer" monstrosities and catch some stinky blooze riffage. The heat and the scene were getting to us, so we ducked into the cool climate-controlled environs of a hotel bar, where we glimpsed the famous Peabody Ducks.

Brynat's famous biscuits

BigStates' co-conspirator at A. Schwab's

Peabody Ducks

We made a quick stop in midtown to poke into Goner Records and the vintage shop next door, then made our way to Payne's for lunch. Our appetites were small, I think due in part to the heat (have mentioned it was hot?) but also because we ate our weight in grits and biscuits for breakfast. Anyway, over to Murphy's to catch Twinkle Van Winkle, Magic Kids, Lover!, Perfect Fits, and CoCoComa. Everyone sounded pretty good, and the back room at Murphy's managed to stay pretty cool. Elspeth (that's her in all the pictures) and I decided to grab take-out from Gus's and head back to the house (and its powerful A/C) for much-needed showers, naps, and general r + r.
Gus's World Famous fried chicken

The second round of shows saw the Gories improve. They seemed tighter and to really feed off the crowd's energy, and though Mick's voice was still a little rough, I think I can die happy. Getting to hear "Nitroglycerine,""Thunderbird ESQ,"and "Feral"-among others-live, TWICE, was a rock and roll dream come true.

When the Oblivians finally started playing, everyone was thinking the same thing: is Quintron gonna play with 'em? A hard guy to miss, I think every Oblivians fan in Memphis had noticed Mr. Swamp Boogie Badass himself wandering around the Hi-Tone on Friday night. Apparently not one to disappoint, he joined the band late in their set for four songs. Like always, Rocket Science captured the magic:

If Mother Knew

Garage Punk Parking Lot

After what everyone agreed was a pretty mind-boggling set, Elspeth and I grabbed Joey and Marni (the Provo Contingent) and headed to the Pancake House out on Summer Ave. for a late-night round of bacon waffles. At about three, we high-tailed it back to the Hi-Tone in the hopes of grabbing a few more cold beers (it was still hot, even at 3:30 AM). Our hopes were dashed temporarily when we realized we were half an hour late for last call, but the indefatigable Robin Pack of the oft-mentioned Rocket Science Audio agreed to lead us to the mythical Alex's Tavern, a bar that apparently never closes.
Me, with Marni, one half of the Provo Contingent
Elspeth with Joey, the other half
This is what Memphis looks like at 6 AM

After about five hours of sleep, Elspeth and I headed north to Carbondale, IL, to visit our friends Rosie and Becky. More A/C, $0.75 PBR draughts, and good times. It was a nice way to wind down and break up the drive, and Rosie and Becky always show us a good time.
Rosie and Becky, the coolest kids in Carbondale

The next morning, thoroughly exhausted, we made our way back to Chicago. All in all, a great weekend. I got to see two shows by bands I never even considered seeing live, ate great food, and did it all in great company. Special thanks to Gina and Scott for putting us up... see you in September for Gonerfest!
Finally, back in Chicago




Our pals at Felony Fidelity just released a new 7" by lo-fi legend R. Stevie Moore.

A genuine freak with a startling musical pedigree, Moore began his life-long dedication to home recording after leaving his father's publishing company (Moore's father headed up the legendary Nashville A-Team, a group of producers and session musicians who's playing can be heard on records by Elvis, Patsy Cline and Bob Dylan, among others) and releasing Phonography in 1976. Moore himself was a gifted sideman, but abandoned this potentially lucrative career for the green pastures of New Jersey, where he moved in the late 1970s to polish his weird-pop genius.


Moore worked as an on-air personality at WFMU, and set up the RSM Cassette Club, a cassette-only record label dedicated to releasing Moore's musical output (occasionally stretching as far back as the 1960s). Meanwhile, he continues to record for other labels and collaborate with like-minded musicians including Jad Fair and Terry Burrows.

While many of his releases are officially out of print, cassettes and CDRs ("homemade burns") are available at very reasonable prices from the man himself.