Monday, June 22, 2015

Broooooce Reconsidered

There were lots of wonderful records on the radio as I approached (chronological) adulthood, few more wonderful than the breakthrough international hit by The Easybeats, sort of the antipodal Beatles. At the beginning, as the singer bitches and moans, as the very young will, about being a wage slave, it’s fairly earthbound. But then, as he begins contemplating ever more voraciously the weekend to come, the music begins to soar. The Beatles and Hollies sang thrilling harmonies? Neither had anything on the Easies. “Friday On My Mind” was one of the three or four most exhilarating pop records of the 1960s.

On his 2014 visit to Australia, Bruce Springsteen performed the song, presumably as a special treat for his fans in Sydney, where the Easies were formed, though performed isn’t quite the right word — brutalized is more like it. I have never heard a worse vocal performance by a professional musician. It isn’t that he’s painfully out of tune — his atonality made all the more vivid and embarrassing by the lovely entrance of his four African American backing vocalists (white folk can’t jump, or sing backing vocals) — or that he seems to be stuck on Bellow. It’s also that he stomps around like an irate orangutan, gesticulating like a thwarted toddler.  In this latter regard, one is reminded, unpleasantly, of Mick Jagger, who in his own dotage, has taken to gesticulating in exactly the same way 4000 times per song.

It’s OK to just stand there for a moment or two, fellows.

When he first emerged, I perceived Springteen as a hammy,  vocally affected, musically banal, logorrheic blowhard, though there was no denying that his own breakthrough hit, “Born to Run,” had its thrilling moments. Strap your hands across my engine, indeed! Then I saw him live, where he exuded joy as no other performer I’d ever seen — a prisoner of rock and roll, pleading for a life sentence, in Greil Marcus’s wonderful phrase — and became an avid fan. I thought “Dancing in the Dark” might have been the best song about depression I’d ever heard, and I am the composer of "Falling Off the Face of the Earth."

The more popular he became, though, the more grandiose. He committed the rock superstar’s cardinal sin, of inviting his wife, with her alarming proclivity for singing in the key of H, to join his ever-larger band on stage. Apparently embarrassed by how exhaustingly bombastic he’d become, he unleashed his inner folk singer, complete with a twang that made his soul man affectations seem authentic in comparison, and it made one long for the old grandiosity. “Anyone who will claim to listen to Nebraska for pleasure,” a writer for Creem cogently noted, “will lie about other things too.”

In this century, he’s taken to showing up on TV nearly as relentlessly as Dave Grohl, but TV is so not his medium; that which looks really cool to someone 50 yards away in a stadium looks foolish or even obnoxious in close-up on TV. He  is no less relentlessly passionate than in the old days, and entirely too fucking passionate. He grimaces horribly. The veins in his neck bulge ominously. Will the guy sing himself to death? Will he cause himself to explode before our very eyes?

His self-mocking turns alongside Jimmy Fallon nearly got me back on his side. But then there was Sydney. If I’d been a member of the audience there, “Friday On My Mind” would have made me more inclined to try to tar and feather him than to thrust my fist in the air and bellow, “Broooooce!”


  1. Just to make sure I hate it as much as you.

  2. Just to make sure I hate it as much as you.

  3. funny as fuck this is. john ned wrote this? come back, all is forgiven (the Pits). and i have to say (then, and now) that i 99.9% agree with the famous kick-to-the-head thrashings of the Led Zeppelin I and Led Zeppelin II albums (in rolling stone, disguised as record reviews).

    except for the landmass of good songwriting spread across the The River era (much of it not used, on that 2lp that is) i always thought Springsteein was audio torture top to bottom, but hey, i'm a 1988 Freestyle guy at heart. if you're going to howl with several vocal limitations (Expose, Sweet Sensation, Stacey Q, to name the three obvious ones), then the "straining to hit notes you can't quite reach" had better be part of the musical definition of the genre itself (heartbreak and heartache plus some yearning, in all the lyrics).

    the idea that anyone would even have to "posit and argument" that the Friday on My Mind worldwide hit 45 was one of the 10 Greatest rock hits of the 60's is totally should just only be stated as a fact, like here. notwithstanding the fact that the song (its structure/chord changes/melody lines/guitar arrangement) was pretty unique even in the Vanda/Young song catalog.

    fact = vanda/young were BIG collaborators (as the clock ran, in the studio) on all the pre-Mutt Lange AC/DC material. Malcomb, Angus, Henry (young), plus or minus George (Vanda), head to head, banging out new song after new song. after which (song by song), Bon Scott took the "raw cassette" out to the kitchen/break room to crib more "dirty ditties" for lyrics out of his notebook where they had been compiled month by month during those years.

    1. manual spellcheck: "severe" (not several). altho in Booooooce's case, "endless" (vocal limitations) might also be appropriate. back off with the sterno howling, dude! (the Born to Run single forty years ago). the Roy Orbison karaoke contest ended three hours ago!

  4. "so who are you, buddy? some retired high paid accountant? (true, if 51th percentile was "high paid") some bandleader of those endless LA 1977-1982 punk rock bands who were the musical equivalent of a plague of cockroaches? (yeah, i guess?) WHAT CREDENTIALS DO YOU HAVE TO TRASH AN ARENA-ROCK 'ICON'?" ha well funny you should ask that. i saw a perfectly impressive Whisky-A-Go-Go 2nd billed slot (to Foghat mind you. Slow Ride take it down, motherfucking Foghat!) by Christopher Milk long ago, in the summer of 1972. and then wrote it up in some fanzine of the time. whatever it said, i don't see why i shouldn't ferret it out right now, to clear the dust with any of this springsteen gibberwhateverish, brooms and dustpans in hand. .

    Fall 1972 issue (fanzine, xeroxed)

    Whisky A-Go-Go
    Los Angeles, CA

    Fall 1972 issue (fanzine, xeroxed)

    -- by Metal Mike Saunders

    I WALKED IN late, so for all purposes Foghat were the opening group. People take their album seriously because Dave Edmunds was involved with it, but Alvin Lee’d sue Foghat’s ass if he ever saw their live show. Lead singer/guitarist Lonesome Dave is a wind-up Alvin Lee look-alike, sound-alike, and grimace-alike, and it all sounds like this: boogie boogie boogie boogie boogie boogie boogie boogie boogie.

    It was pretty funny for a while, as one has gotten into some of TYA’s more absurd efforts (like 'Goin’ Home' and the Stooges-ish 'WATT'), but as Foghat's brand of British Boogie Blooze boogied on into infinity, it became downright irritating. Their big finale was a 15-minute medley of 'I Just Want to Make Love to You'/'Who Do You Love'/'Rollin’ and Tumblin'', if you can imagine.

    The group I had come to see – Christopher Milk – then came on, and I sat back expecting thoroughly to hate them. Well, I was wrong. My mouth was wide open after 30 second of their first number: the Small Faces’ 'Afterglow' bashed out in a uncompromising hard rock clamor. Somewhere along the line C. Milk had cut down to a 4-piece band (guitar, bass, drums, vocals) playing straight-ahead totally energizing rock and roll. They had a great hard rock sound: their guitarist’s power chording was superb, The Kiddo’s bass was as solid as a hydraulic press, and the drummer was quite good as well. Solid Stuff.

    After 'Afterglow', CM revived into 'I’m Waiting For My Man', followed by a hilarious parody of, of all things, De Blooze. If you think you’ve paid your dues because you own all 36 John Mayall records, you haven’t begun to fathom the meaning of blues until you’ve seen Ralph Oswald hold a feed-back note for 32 bars, and later back-roll across the stage like a cocaine-fried-cataleptic while squeezing every last note out of his guitar. That’s the blues, son.

    The rest of C. Milk’s set consisted largely of original material, most of which was fairly above average, elevated a great deal by the group’s ability to really kick ass instrumentally. Though C. Milk’s instrumental prowess at rocking out dominated the proceedings, they seem to be improving vocally. John Mendelssohn’s nightclub voice doesn’t make it and never will, but on several numbers (like 'Waiting For My Man') he used a new Lou Reed-type bark that was quite good. Ralph Oswald Handles about 25% of the singing, does an excellent early Steve Marriott emulation, and is generally the group’s best vocalist.

    So why does C. Milk keep their lead singer? Well, mainly because the group’s centers around Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn is extremely athletic, capable of some incredibly impressive gymnastics – but he lacks grace, so his (1) constant running around the stage; (2) constant moving up and down; (3) boxing with the drums during instrumental breaks; (4) and other assorted physical hyper-activity comes off as very weird. The rest of C. Milk are no slouches either, participating in an overall choreography [sic] that seems to be a combination of the Stooges and early Alice Cooper.

    Christopher Milk’s main shortcoming, besides the lack of any exceptional material, is that their music has absolutely no warmth at all. Instead, as you might expect, there’s quite an air of obsession about the group, like the kid w/the chip on his shoulder who’s trying to prove something. It wouldn’t take much insight to trace this back to Mendelssohn. Still, a lot of groups have produced some good music out of such an attitude, however much of a shortcoming it may be in the long run. And the early Who, one of the greatest rock outfits ever, rated absolute Zero on the heart factor.

  6. (cont., pt 2/2)

    What’s interesting is the media response Christopher Milk’s stay at the Whiskey induced (audience response was pretty good the night I was there), total slams in the Free Press and Billboard, bringing out the "unmusical tasteless garbage" epithets. Well, the group I saw was solidly above average and extremely professional, perfectly capable of holding their own as a current American group. I get the feeling C. Milk are doing something right to draw those sort of poison-pen attitudes.

    Of course, it comes back to jealousy that John Mendelssohn could do something good with his group. Well, it’s no secret that I have no overwhelming affection for Mendelssohn either… when John Z wakes up one day under 5000 copies of LED ZEP II and MASTER OF REALITY, HE’LL KNOW WHO DID IT. And just think: if C. Milk become stars, maybe Mendelsson will quit writing Now that’d be something to look forward to!