Saturday, May 06, 2006

Our frisco.

The title refers to a late album by the criminally underheard The (ex) Cat Heads, a kind of SF indie supergroup, formed from the detritus of The Cat Heads and featuring one of my favorite drummers Melanie Clarin of the S F Seals, World of Pooh, and the Donner Party. It's appropriate for the next in our set of musical list debates. This time set off by the Apple Music store's Bay Area Essentials list:

THE ITUNES SONG LIST

1. TRUCKIN’ - Grateful Dead
2. SOMEBODY TO LOVE - Jefferson Airplane
3. PIECE OF MY HEART - Big Brother and the Holding Company
4. THANK YOU (FALETTINME BE MICE ELF AGIN) - Sly and the Family Stone
5. FORTUNATE SON - Creedence Clearwater Revival
6. OYE COMO VA - Santana
7. LONGVIEW Green Day
8. WE SHALL OVERCOME - Joan Baez
9. BLACK WATER - Doobie Brothers
10. LIGHTS Journey
11. WHAT IS HIP - Tower of Power
12. CALIFORNIA ÜBER ALLES Dead Kennedys
13. WICKED GAME - Chris Isaak
14. U CAN’T TOUCH THIS - MC Hammer
15. ROCKIN’ IN THE FREE WORLD - Neil Young
16. SUMMERTIME BLUES - Blue Cheer
17. WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE - Kingston Trio
18. WORKING FOR A LIVING - Huey Lewis and the News
19. SYMPHONY OF DESTRUCTION - Megadeth
20. EPIC - Faith No More
21. MR. JONES - Counting Crows
22. PRIDE OF MAN - Quicksilver Messenger Service
23. MIDNIGHT IN A PERFECT WORLD - DJ Shadow
24. LOWDOWN - Boz Scaggs
25. CAN YOU HANDLE THAT? - Graham Central Station

Obviously blander than bland. and I immediately say natch to tracks 8, 9, 14, 17, 21.

I'm not alone. The S F Chronicle's music critics, Joel Selvin and Aidin Vaziri responded in kind:

THE CHRONICLE'S LIST
COMPILED BY AIDIN VAZIRI AND JOEL SELVIN

1. I WANT TO TAKE YOU HIGHER -- Sly and the Family Stone -- The Woodstock anthem from the psychedelic soul rockers
2. DARK STAR -- Grateful Dead -- Space is their place
3. SLOW DEATH -- Flamin' Groovies -- Every English punk band knew this one
4. MASTER OF PUPPETS -- Metallica -- Don't have to be online to be on our list
5. BALLAD OF YOU AND ME AND POONEIL -- Jefferson Airplane -- Like the band itself, awful and fabulous at the same time
6. CALIFORNIA ÜBER ALLES -- Dead Kennedys -- San Francisco punk from the Jerry Brown era
7. YOU MAKE ME FEEL (MIGHTY REAL) -- Sylvester -- Cross-dressing disco straight out of pre-AIDS Castro
8. BORN ON THE BAYOU -- Creedence Clearwater Revival -- El Cerrito swamp rock heard 'round the world
9. DEAR MAMA -- Tupac Shakur -- Marin City's finest; West Coast hip-hop got soul
10. OMAHA -- Moby Grape -- Being underrated goes to the heart of being from San Francisco
11. AMERICAN IDIOT -- Green Day -- Duh
12. BLACK MAGIC WOMAN -- Santana -- Gypsy Queen -- The sounds of the Mission District from a band that once mattered
13. SATISFACTION -- The Residents -- Smarty-pants rock deconstructionists, willfully weird, intentionally obscure
14. DOWN TO THE NIGHTCLUB -- Tower of Power -- Keystone Berkeley lives and the lead singer's a killer
15. ROADRUNNER -- Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers -- The hipster's handbook from a faux-naif
16. WHITE PUNKS ON DOPE -- The Tubes -- San Francisco in the '70s
17. WE CARE A LOT -- Faith No More -- "about the food that Live Aid bought"
18. NEVER SAY NEVER -- Romeo Void -- Weird, wonderful, unexpectedly sexy
19. MIDNIGHT IN A PERFECT WORLD -- DJ Shadow -- A dream built around samples and scratches
20. FREEDOM -- Sons of Champlin -- The real hippies
21. WICKED GAME -- Chris Isaak -- Sex on the beach
22. JOHN THE FISHERMAN -- Primus -- Primus sucks
23. LIVING IN THE U.S.A. -- Steve Miller Band -- Somebody get me a cheeseburger
24. LOAN ME A DIME -- Boz Scaggs -- THE San Francisco blues
25. BALL AND CHAIN -- Big Brother and the Holding Company -- What made Janis Joplin a star

A better list, except it's still mired in the 60s and 70s a bit too much for my taste (but then I'm younger than Selvin) and not really noticing the vibrant, multi-faceted Bay Area music scene of the last 20 years enough. Stockton is not in the Bay area dudes, so Isaak goes. I mean you didn't list Pavement here and they were the best band of the 90s bar none! Being on Beserkeley records does not make you from the Bay Area. Richman is out; I mean there isn't a Stop&Shop within 2000 miles of Coit Tower. C'mon. Flamin' Groovies, Romeo Void, Primus, and The Residents were nice pick ups, and their choice for Faith No More was a better song, so I'll be generous and dole out a leftover Stanford TA B+.

RULES FOR TNA'S LIST

My list follows but first some ground rules. I'm doing a chronological list of 25 songs without any reference to actually ranking them. I diss the 1960s somewhat, not because they weren't important but because 1) they've been thoroughly covered on the two aforementioned lists not to mention by the likes of Ben Fong-Torres and Greil Marcus and 2) I was six when they ended. I generally go for lesser known songs with a few exceptions, which I explain below. Often I go for obscure bands because the purpose of this list is educational. If you're reading this, you probably already know who Faith No More and even The Tubes are. In a few places, I offer two tracks for an artist; just choose one and make your own personalized version of "my" list. Finally I take a pretty strict geographic stance on the greater Bay Area as defined by a 6 or so county area bounded by the Pacific to the west, Tracy, CA to the East, the Sonoma-Napa highway to the North (37) and the southern reaches of San Jose to the south and the summit of Highway 17 to the SW. In other words Stockton is out/Davis is Out/ and so is Santa Cruz (No Camper Van Beethoven alas). Similarly, I would have started this list jokingly with Blues Image, "Ride Captain Ride" because it taught a young me a lot about the Bay Area, but then they hail from Tampa, FL, so maybe it was that other Bay! Oops.

THE TNA SF MUSIC 25

SOMEBODY TO LOVE-Great Society
The original version of this song with Grace and little brother Darby driving Sylester Stewart mad over mutliple takes in the studio. He walks out, and we're left with the best version of the song extant.

PSYCOTIC REACTION-Count Five
A Great San Jose band on the cutting edge of garage and psychedelia.

TIME HAS COME TODAY-The Chambers Brothers.
I might be off here but my sources tell me after leaving Lee County, MS (Tupelo and environs) and spending the mid 1950s in So Cal, the brothers went multi-racial and followed the hippies to Haight. The first use of the world psychedelic as a verb form I have been able to find: "psychedelicize!"

ITS OVER-Boz Scaggs
IN 7th grade, this was my favorite love sucks song from what remains a pretty cool, hipster cocktail album, Silk Degrees. Scaggs gets extra points for owning and running the eclectically programmed Slim's nightclub. Check out the June calendar, for example.

THE AMERIKAN IN ME or CORPUS CHRISTI (LIVE)-The Avengers
They opened for The Sex Pistols' (in)famous final show at Winterland; Steve Jones produced some of their stuff, and in 1983 CD Presents put out the famous pink album (long out of print alas). Penelope Houston will appear again later with a completely different haircut. For more on her and the Avengers, go here.

EVERYWHERE THAT I'M NOT-Translator
Should have been a much more massive(r) hit than it was; power pop at its best.

LIFE-Flipper
Preferably the live version from the Rat Music for Rat People Vol. 1 compilation as opposed to the original album track.

AT GILMAN STREET or DUMB LITTLE BAND-Mr. T Experience
If you hung at Gilman in the mid 1980s, then you know that this band used to put up their dookies and blow Green Day out of their Converse and off the stage nightly. Now at least Dr. Frank is having young adult author success with King Dork. Good on ya.

PINK PIGGIES-Raggedy Anne
7th graders from Palo Alto who hung out at KZSU and with the CIY House of Faith crowd (Oxbow et al.). Now better known as their lamer grown up face: the Donnas. This track is taken from a Wednesday Night Live Session on KZSU.

RHYMIN' ON THE FUNK-Digital Underground
far more than just the novelty nose dance single, this rap collective showed deep R&B and jazz roots on their fine debut CD Sex Packets, another Tommy Boy joint.

U2-Negativland
SST, BONO, and the Supreme Court can bite me. These tracks now available again on the larger compilation These Guys Are From England.

HAPPY AMERICANS or AN OLD COLONIAL'S HARD LUCK STORY-X-Tal
fantastic, underappreciated band on Alias. KZSU was proud to host a live show by them at Stanford's Little Theater during my tenure there. Plus former frontman J. Neo (Marvin) has an incredibly great photo blog of SF music scene from late 1970s forward.

DEFINITELY NOTHING-Henry's Dress
Oakland's finest noisemeisters; melodic and controlled feedback. Mellowed and became The Aislers Set.

THE HATE THAT HATE MADE-Paris
Political rap straight outta Oakland. Save that Tupac stuff for someone who cares.

WHOEVER YOU ARE-Invisibl Skratch Piklz
Give it up for the greatest DJs evah and proud role models for PILIPINO B Boyz everywhere. Q-bert is God! Dont' Believe Me; check out Doug Pray's SCRATCH!

THE WORLD (AND ALL ITS PROBLEMS)-John Wesley Harding
hailing from Essex by way of Cambridge University, this Costello soundalike stands in for all the artists who resettled in the Bay Area in the late 1980s and early 1990s (think Robert Cray and keep going).

WEST END BLUES-Jon Faddis
One of the few really interesting parts of Ken Burns' "JAZZ: a really not so (im)partial history" was Wynton Marsalis describing how impossible the opening solo of this most famous early record by Armstrong is. Oakland trumpeter and Dizzy Gillespie protégé Faddis has the chops and the cojones to open shows with it as he did at a famous show at Kimball's in the city on his birthday. Between sets his proud mama and cousins served sheet cake to the entire crowd, a totally memorable evening with Blue Velvet.

SCISSORS or SYMPATHY WREATH-Barbara Manning
Criminally overlooked neo-folk artist with major league baseball obsessions; she wrote a song about Dock Ellis' acid-aided no hitter for her band The S.F. Seals! And yes that was the PCL team that Dom and Joe played for before the East Coast and the bigs called.

BED OF LIES or QUALITIES OF MERCY-Penelope Houston
She's back, a bit more zaftig and with a lot more hair, doing the neo-folk uprising thing for the late lamented label, Subterranean Records, amongst others. She writes nice biting folk that still has a reminder of her harder edge.

BIG DRILL or STAR OF THE COUNTY DOWN-Bedlam Rovers
Another criminally overlooked Bay Area neo-folk group. The former is their eco-conscious paean to "Cortez the Killer" methinks. Their cover of the traditional Irish tune on Devouring Our Roots is astonishing. If Van Morrison had been born a woman in the Bay Area, he woulda been frontin' the Bedlam Rovers.

STATIONS OF THE TIDE-Henry Kaiser
One of two great Oakland-based avant garde guitarists. A Bay Area treasure.

COMPOSITION 23d (+108a)-The Splatter Trio
part of the whole Berkeley improvisers/BeanBenders scene. Heavy takes on Braxtonia.

HERE IT IS-Swell
The last new local band I heard as I left town in 1996 for Mississippi. Nice Melody, nice Lyrics, and an amazing drum breakdown.

BUT WE LOVE YOU CHARLEY BROWN-Dan Plonsey w/Rova Saxophone Quartet et al.
live masterpeiece from Bay Area composer/multi-instrumentalist.

BAD MUSIC-Blectum from Blechdom
Mills College in Oakland is not the demure female liberal arts college you might have been expecting, but instead amongst other things a hotbed of musical eccentricity and the avant garde. Fred Frith teaches there after all. Two Mills students created this sound collage performance art group. I saw them open for the Boredoms at Slim's, and it was a fascinating Haus de Snaus. This choice in honor of Doree Allen, fellow Stanford English PhD and proud Mills grad, class of 1978.

TRAFFIC CONTINUES: TRAFFIC III/TRAFFIC I-Fred Frith
A great late career record from one of the finest guitar players ever.

GOOD GRIEF?-SubArachnoid Space
POMO psychedelia and guitar manipulation heroics from Mason Jones and co. Saw them in the basement at Café du Nord, and they twiddled a lot of knobs while making some glorious noise. Continues the avant garde Charlie Brown theme and homage to Vince Guaraldi and "Linus and Lucy".

And yes if you actually counted, there were 26 entries. Nolo contendere.

HONORABLE MENTIONS for things that didn't really fit

Neil Young: he's hip again making vital, vital music for the last 20 years or so after he lost his mind in the Reaganite 1980s (Greil Marcus quoting John Irving on why Bob Dylan and Neil Young are heroes: "they're not afraid to make fools of themselves, and you have to be able to do that" [http://www.powells.com/authors/marcusg.html]), he does the Bridge charity plus he saved Lionel trains from potential bankruptcy (how cool is that!).

Todd Rundgren: The Hermit of Mink Hollow, Utopia, and all TR's forays into cyberspace, technology, and electronic gear make him a recent Bay Area staple.

Clubs gone but not forgotten: the I-Beam, The Kennel Club, The Oasis, and Rock'N'Bowl (not that Amoeba in Haight isn't cool itself).

Bay Area indie/non-comm radio: KZSU, KFJC, KALX, KPFA, KCSM and so many many more. Keep up the great work!

The DRUM and any live mix by Kevvy Kev, the earth's longest running Hip Hop show!

SF Survival Research Labs and "the most dangerous shows on earth".

Bay Area Funk I and II, incredible collections of obscure 1970s music.

The SF International Asian-American Film Festival and director Chi-hui Yang's commitment to supporting Asian-American music through the magnificent Directions in Sound series.

Porest: the phrase sui genersis was created for guys like this. Check out Jason Gross's take on his latest here.

Thanks to the largehearted boy for the link to the post that set this off.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey, nice list. Quite a surprise to see an old SubArachnoid Space track listed! Thanks for that, it's so long ago that I barely remember playing du Nord.

Obviously everyone will pick nits with the list. I'll add Tragic Mulatto, who I saw every other week the first few years I was in SF. And Beatnigs. And Stickdog, who ruled. And Mudwimmin, Mirza, Molecules, Haters, and Big City Orchestra. So much to choose from. ;-)

-- Mason Jones (ex-SubArachnoid Space, www.charnel.com/mason)

bulb said...

A BIG Miss on my part: Deerhoof (with Toychestra especially). Reveille totally roxx it!. Also, though newly minted in the Bay Area, The Flying Luttenbachers and any other glorious noise Weasel Walter chooses to emit.