Thursday, April 12, 2018

How to listen to The Beatles Let It Be

My first exposure to the Beatles was the 1987-88 CDs, along with a cassette of all the music directly from the film, which my Dad made for me off of a rented VHS tape (and which sounded pretty good).  So each time new LIB recordings come to me, I revise my opinions on what SHOULD or COULD have been.  That includes several bootlegs I bought in the 90s and 2000s, Anthology 3, the "Naked" album, etc.  So here's what I think SHOULD have been released; it would have put the "rehearsals" on side 1/disk 1, and then the finished products and rooftop concert on side 2/disk 2.  Probably would have seemed weird in 1970, but maybe a double album would have been interesting...

SIDE 1 (or disk 1, depending on timing):
"Get Back" (45 vers)
"Two of Us" (fast version)
Rip It Up / Shake, Rattle and Roll / Blue Suede Shoes (Anthology 3)
"Across the Universe" (snippet, from the film)
"I Me Mine" (1970 LP vers)
"Dig It" (longer than the 1970 LP vers)
"The Long and Winding Road"  (LIBN vers, alternate with no overdubs)
"Maggie Mae" (1970 LP vers)
"Let It Be" (1970 LP vers)

"The Long and Winding Road" (1970 LP vers)
"For You Blue" (LIBN vers)
"Two of Us" (1970 LP vers)
"I've Got a Feeling" (1970 LP vers)
"Don't Let Me Down" (45 vers)
"Across the Universe" (1970 LP vers)
"Dig a Pony" (LIBN vers)
"One After 909" (1970 LP vers)
"Get Back" (lurching version from the end of the film w/"passed the audition" and "ha ha ha"'s)

Saturday, February 3, 2018

SNL Season 6: Finding the good sketches

The recent Saturday Night Live F-bomb brought up discussion on Facebook of one of the most famous moments in the show’s history, when then-castmember Charles Rocket said the forbidden word on February 21, 1981.  It was a move that both almost killed but likely saved the show (explained below), during the first season without the original cast.  That year (season 6) has basically been wiped off the face of the Earth, but there were actually some decent moments.  Below, I have provided a summary (and links) to the zircons hidden among the pebbles.  These are mostly okay, but not as bad as you may have been led to believe.  And I did not bother linking to the dozens of really terrible sketches.
Note that I don’t mention many of the musical performances because few of them are online, and they were pretty much all enjoyable.  That’s understandable, by the way, because producer Jean Doumanian had gotten her job after booking the show’s musical acts from 1976-80.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to have prepared her to staff up and run a comedy juggernaut.
I’ve included some extra pieces specifically for my Chicago, Ohio and media-biz friends, even if they’re not particularly funny.  And note that some of the pieces on the NBC website are mis-labeled and sometimes load really slowly.

If you just want to get to the truly excellent sketches (at least, the ones that are online), here's shortcuts; it actually kind of flows as a real episode...

James Brown Rapp Payback and medley (audio only)

And now, the in-depth slog; if you want to see all the online sketches from season six, start at this link...
1) Elliott Gould / Kid Creole & the Coconuts (Nov. 15, 1980):
The first show of the "new SNL" was heavy on trying to connect with the “original” show (cold open), but fell far short.  Even the promo -- with last-minute host Elliot Gould -- had them mentioning Steve Martin.  (A different promo is here).  This is a great example of how you squander talents (Gilbert Gottfried, character actress Denny Dillon), mis-cast them (Charles Rocket, Joe Piscopo) or just ignore them (Eddie Murphy, who doesn't appear till episode two).  Some interesting bits are Gilbert and Denny interviewing the host, another faux talk show titled "At One With" (which would never fly today), and short films by Randal Kleiser (director of "Grease") and Jonathan Demme.  The rest is weak, but things hadn't gotten truly awful yet.

2) Malcolm McDowell / Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band (Nov. 22, 1980): Widely considered a terrible episode, there are some bright spots...
Gilbert Gottfried as a tobacco executive blaming the lungs -- not cigarettes -- for cancer, and Charles Rocket on 5th Avenue (one of his man-on-the-street "Rocket Reports," which were uniformly excellent).  In the interesting-but-not-that-funny department, Malcolm McDowell reprises his "Clockwork Orange"character and Gilbert Gottfried appears on the news to critique the previousweek's episode.  The news also features McDowell imitating John Lennon, which he says he felt bad about for years -- since Lennon was murdered weeks later -- until Yoko Ono said they saw the show and had enjoyed the imitation.

3) Ellen Burstyn / Aretha Franklin, Keith Sykes (December 6, 1980): An interesting episode with only three really decent segments.  There’s Burstyn as a lonely old lady onHalloween and another Rocket Report.  Plus, Eddie Murphy makes his debut with a speaking part (he was an extra the previous week), giving a commentary on the desegregation of Cleveland’s schoolbasketball teams!
Two interesting-but-not-that-funny pieces are an edited video for the Dr. Demento favorite, “Fish Heads” by Barnes & Barnes (featuring Bill Paxton; the link is to a different edit), and a commercial for the “Ed McMahon School of Laughing.”

4) Jamie Lee Curtis / James Brown, Ellen Shipley (December 13, 1980): All I can say is, I feel bad for Ellen Shipley.  Her big TV debut, and James Brown DESTROYS Studio 8H – causing the show to go way over at the same time (the final third of this episode is very oddly paced).  For context, prior to SNL25, Joe Piscopo was interviewed on VH1 and remembered James Brown actually shaking the building with his performance.  During SNL40, they only showed clips of a half-dozen musical guests: James Brown’s was one of them.  Sadly, in the 60-minute reruns, the performances are edited out due to time!  And this episode was never rerun in its entirety except for once in 2005 during “Classic SNL” on NBC at 1 a.m. (which was not carried on many stations, such as WKYC in Cleveland).  So that means James Brown’s two performances have only aired twice in the U.S.  The audio is available – for now – of “Rapp Payback” and a medley of JB’s hits.  Trivia: James Brown had previously been announced as the musical guest for the February 23, 1980 episode, but was replaced for unknown reasons by Sam & Dave.  Maybe a conflict with filming “The Blues Brothers”?
The rest of this episode includes an excerpt of director Martin Brest’s 1971 film “Hot Dogs for Gauguin” (featuring Danny Devito) and a pretty good sketch about suicidal poets.  For Northeast Ohio nerds, there’s a sketch titled “News In Akron” (which, ironically, does not feature Ohio native Denny Dillon).  At the close, Jamie Lee Curtis reminds people of a vigil for John Lennon being held the next day.  That begs the question: if the original cast had still been on the air, how would they have handled Lennon’s murder?

5) David Carradine / Linda Ronstadt and the cast of "Pirates of Penzance" (December 13, 1980): A surprisingly enjoyable episode with a surprisingly out-of-it host.  There’s commercials for “Gun City” (Crazy Eddie style) and the home version of “Dallas,” plus a Mr. Bill film leftover from the previous year.  Also decent are the Rocket Report, a sketch in which Bob Dylan visits Woody Guthrie, and Joe Piscopo trying to replace Don Pardo (which he would actually do a couple times later on, when Pardo was out sick).  Interestingly, there are two sketches featuring the same shopping mall set: one with valley girls and one with people mourning Col. Sanders.  (How does the Colonel get a whole sketch, and John Lennon just gets a mention in the goodnights?!).  One short film, involving NBC executives trying to find a virgin for their new show, mentions Father Guido Sarducci… and was almost nixed by network censors.  Same with a sketch about rich people going to Harlem to buy drugs.
It all is pretty consistent for this season, but isn’t particularly great in the pantheon of SNL.
Broadway fans will want to see Bill Irwin as a man who can’t stop dancing, but the piece is never online because it uses the Peaches & Herb song “Shake Your Groove Thing.”  They did a sequel to this on the October 23, 1982 show hosted by Howard Hesseman.  In that episode, he mentions that he’s the first person to host the “old” SNL (original cast) and the “new,” further proving that everyone wanted to just pretend season six never happened.

6) Ray Sharkey / Jack Bruce & Friends (January 10, 1981): This episode is mostly notable for the people involved, as opposed to any great sketches.  First, comedian Dom Irrera (one of my favorites) has a bit part in the cold open.  He had tried out for the show the previous fall and didn’t make the cut.  (Also look for Wendie Malick of “Just Shoot Me” as an extra this season).  There’s a short film by Mike Nesmith of The Monkees.  And Cream bassist Jack Bruce is backed up by David Sancious (of the E Street Band) and Billy Cobham.
Late in the show, as they were running short on time, Eddie Murphy was asked to go on stage and perform part of his stand up routine, and it kills!  There’s also a cute commercial for “Stop-A-Nut,” and a good sketch in which Sharkey is trying to interrogate Gilbert Gottfried.  During "Weekend Update," Eddie Murphy does some of his impressions for the first time and gets in a nasty dig at Garrett Morris.
Behind-the-scenes, filmmaker Mitchell Kriegman was let go over the Christmas break.  He would go on to create “Clarissa Explains It All.”  Head writer Mason Williams (previously of the “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour”) was also let go, replaced by Jeremy Stevens and Tom Moore (of “Fernwood 2-Night”).  Finally, improv legend Del Close was brought in to work with the case.

7) Karen Black / Cheap Trick, Stanley Clarke Trio (January 17, 1981):  This is actually a little better than Black’s 1976 episode; new head writers Tom Moore and Jeremy Stevens seem to be on to something.  Several of the sketches would be funny in any SNL era: Charles Rocket as a game show host at home, the best Rocket Report, Eddie Murphy fighting with his neighbor over the loudness of his stereo, and a “60 Minutes” parody that may only be funny to people in-the-biz (and featuring an actor who looks like Dennis Kucinich, but playing Mike Wallace).
Other than that, there’s some decent pieces in which Jimmy Carter leaves the White House, a museum security guard breaks up with a painting, we hear the thoughts of a stroke victim, the first appearance of Piscopo as Frank Sinatra, and Karen Black and “Jersey Guy” Paulie Herman parodying “Five Easy Pieces.”

8) Robert Hays / Joe "King" Carrasco & the Crowns, 14 Karat Soul (January 24, 1981): The star of “Airplane!” can’t save this weak episode.  The monologue is just a retread of one Buck Henry did in 1979, and the only decent pieces are the “Save-A-Network” telethon for NBC, the Rocket Report, and a sports organist playing during a funeral.

9) Sally Kellerman / Jimmy Cliff (February 7, 1981): Again, more interesting for stuff that has nothing to do with comedy.  The Rocket Report is so-so but was filmed at the parade welcoming home the Iranian hostages.  A slow-moving sketch about a televised courtroom (something that was new in 1981) morphs into “The Tonight Show,” complete with the real Jim Fowler and another Dom Irrera spotting.  A very flimsy and irritating sketch, “The Audition,” ends with Gilbert Gottfried doing a good proto-Andrew “Dice” Clay routine.  And for end-credit-nerds, the show’s costume house changed its name from Brooks Van Horn to Eaves-Brooks.
There are two actually enjoyable pieces in this episode: a game show called “Name That Sin,” and Eddie Murphy worrying that the Emancipation Proclamation is invalid.

10) Deborah Harry / Funky Four + 1 More (February 14, 1981): More IBNTF (“interesting-but-not-that-funny”) bits for the Valentine’s Day show.  The lead singer of Blondie presents the first known appearance of rap (Funky Four + 1 More) on national television.  Later, she appeared in a sketch playing a woman who is trying to come out to her parents (something pretty groundbreaking for 1981).  And there’s a decent rewrite of the game-show-host-at-home sketch from the Karen Black show.  Other than that, Gilbert Gottfried playing Big Brother in an Orwellian future is pretty good.

11) Charlene Tilton / Todd Rundgren, Prince (February 21, 1981): This is it, the moment that saved SNL by killing it.  All season, critics had savaged the show.  Ratings and ad rates dipped, and NBC was contemplating cancelling SNL.  Had Charles Rocket not dropped an F-bomb during the goodnights, the show would likely have limped along till the end of the season, then been replaced by SCTV.  And we would never have gotten to see “More Cowbell” or Kristen Wiig or “Wayne’s World” or Fernando or “James Brown Celebrity Hot Tub” or Tina Fey.
The musical guests this week are far more interesting: Prince makes his debut with an amazing “Partyup” (another of the few excerpted pieces on SNL40), and Todd Rundgren’s “Time Heals” is a forgotten gem.
Other than that, the IBNTF bits include three commercials: one for the Greatest Records of All-Time (basically “Dave’s Record Collection” from the Letterman show), “A Fiddler Be On the Roof” (prototype for “Buckwheat Sings”), and a parody of the promo for the boring Richard Dreyfuss film “The Competition” (which can be compared to the real commercial).
The Rocket Report is pretty good, and the first-ever “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood” is a classic (and not online!).

12) Bill Murray / Delbert McClinton (March 7, 1981): After Charles Rocket’s F-bomb, NBC decided to shut down the show for re-tooling.  Before they got a chance, Bill Murray signed on to host and took the season six cast out with a bang.
This episode is filled with nostalgia and begins with a “Meatballs”-inspired cold open, plus Murray picking the Oscars (as he used to on “Weekend Update”), and a Nick the Lounge Singer sketch (Nick Rivers).  At the end of the show, he apologizes to the original cast for hosting, and then basically snubs the new cast except Eddie Murphy.
In between are three pretty good sketches, which all somehow feel like things I’ve seen Bill Murray do with the original cast: playing a novelist, a man who can’t remember his friend’s cat’s name, and as a laundromat owner.  There’s also a parody of “Altered States” featuring Bill Murray’s Walter Cronkite impression, the day after Cronkite retired from anchoring the CBS Evening News.
Just before Comedy Central lost their rights to the hour-long SNL reruns, they ran a “50 Greatest Episodes of All-Time” marathon on Christmas Day, 2003.  This was the only episode they ran from season six.
The following week’s show was supposed to be hosted by Robert Guillaume, with musical guest Ian Dury & the Blockheads, but instead SNL shut down for a month so new producer Dick Ebersol could (mostly) clean house.  In the interim, he chose the following four original cast episodes as reruns: Richard Pryor / Gil Scott-Heron (12/13/75), Steve Martin / The Blues Brothers (04/22/78), Rick Nelson / Judy Collins (02/17/79), Margot Kidder / The Chieftains (03/17/79).

13) Chevy Chase / Junior Walker & The All-Stars (April 11, 1981): Some SNL histories say there is no officially credited host for this episode, but it’s obvious that Chase is filling that role.  Apparently, Dick Ebersol was so desperate to reconnect with the original cast, he allowed Chase – who was shooting a movie -- to fly in on Saturday, skipping rehearsals.  His rusty delivery during “Weekend Update” would bear that out, but this show is actually quite good thanks to a number returning SNL veterans (Michael O’Donoghue, Al Franken, Rosie Shuster, Walter Williams) and new blood from Second City (Robin Duke, Tom Kazurinsky, Tony Rosato).  There’s even a cameo by Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve!  Interestingly, Brian Doyle-Murray – who had written for the show consistently since season three, and was even a castmember in season five – had been fired the previous week!
Highlights: Chevy returns and finds Mr. Bill, Eddie Murphy as Bill Cosby, Al Franken wants to “Put SNL to Sleep,” Gail Matthius as Irene Cara singing “Same,” a commercial for a terrible “school of broadcasting,” and a thinly veiled parody of my favorite drama, “Hill Street Blues,” titled “The Self Righteous.”
The following week’s show was supposed to feature Al Franken & Tom Davis, with musical guest the Grateful Dead.  That never happened because a writer’s strike shut down the entire TV industry.  Also cancelled were shows slated to be hosted by Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd.  Instead, SNL wouldn’t return until October, by which point any lingering reminders of the dreaded season six had been purged.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Don't Buy Fake Reel Tapes For Sale Online

The “vinyl revival” is in full swing, which really means hipsters want to over-pay for digitally sourced reissues to play on groove-chewing, off-speed but “cool-looking” Crosley turntables or mediocre, beat-up 1980s appliances.
I love and prefer decent vinyl played on decent turntables.  But if you think I’m crazy, you’ll really find it crazy that reel to reel tape is making a comeback!
Reel tape actually has the potential to sound better than vinyl, but 99 percent of the commercially released tapes made from 1954 through 1986 cannot compete with the LP.  There are many technical reasons for this, but mostly it’s a case of the manufacturers back then using cheaper tape, slower speeds and higher generation production tapes.
After Barclay-Crocker closed its doors in 1986, no company was marketing reel tapes until The Tape Project started in 2010.  They source master tapes and carefully dub them in small batches.  The sound quality is phenomenal, partly because they use a track format that was usually reserved for professionals (“half-track,” aka “2-track”).  The majority of 1954-86 reels were recorded in “quarter-track,” meaning the audio signal got half as much of the tape, and so didn’t sound as good as The Tape Project.
The problem with The Tape Project is that it has spurred numerous con artists to jump on the bandwagon.  Online auctions are right now littered with what are usually labeled “radio station reels” or “production masters,” making it seem as though they are copies made from the master tape to be shipped out to radio stations and pressing plants.  In reality, someone with a color printer has just printed out the cover to an album, pasted it on a reel box, and dubbed the music from a CD.  Below are some general truths about these fake reels.

-Radio stations would get promotional copies of albums on vinyl. Rarely would they get tapes except for commercials, syndicated programs or the occasional very hot release.  And when that happened, they would dub the music to a “cart,” which was an endless-loop cartridge that could be played back quickly.  No DJ was going to sit there and fast-wind through a large reel of tape to find a song.  Google old pictures of radio stations, and you’ll see a several turntables and cart machines in the booth, and invariably there will be one or two reel decks -- in the background – and probably without reels even loaded on them.  They were used infrequently, usually to play long-form, pre-taped programs.
-When radio stations did save reel tapes, they would label them with pen, or with type-written labels.  Many stations had their own labels to slap onto the box, which included their logo and contact info, and spaces to write dates, song titles, speed information, etc.  You can Google all this, too.  But no radio stations took the time to print out color copies of an album cover, measure them to the exact dimensions of the box, then spend time carefully pasting them on.  Frankly, I don’t know any radio stations that even had color printers in the building back in the 1960s or 70s (the time that most of these “radio station reels” supposedly come from).
-When syndicated shows were sent on reel tapes, rarely were they recorded at the highest speeds (15 or 30 IPS).  They were usually sent at 7.5 IPS, which was the lowest professionally acceptable speed that still provided adequate sound quality (especially in the days of AM radio).
-There have been many alleged “master tapes” or “production masters” listed for sale that originate in Moldova or the “Russian Federation.”  The sheer number of these online would indicate that eastern Europe was pressing millions more records each year than the United States.  FALSE.  Moldova was under Soviet control until the early 1990s.  Most of the pressing plants were in government hands, and only pressed “approved” music.  Western pop music was considered decadent, and therefore not pressed or released officially (hence the black-market practice of inscribing grooves on old X-ray film).  So that “production master” of 1975’s “Born to Run” is not from Moldova.  It is from some guy who has too much time on his hands.
-Also, how many U.S. or British or German “production masters” have you seen for sale?  I bet very few.  Because once those tapes had been used, and the music no longer “hip,” the tapes were discarded or recycled or otherwise not saved.  Example: In 1982, Columbia’s Terre Haute, Indiana pressing plant probably got several copies of the production master for Men at Work’s first album.  What do you think the odds are that those tapes were no longer needed by, say, 1985?  I would say it’s very likely the tapes were NOT saved and coveted and stored away.  That being said, in Moldova -- where space is at a premium, and possession of “decadent Western pop” could be an arrest-able offense -- I’m pretty sure no pressing plant employee was lugging home large reels of tape and storing them away in their tiny apartment.

These are just some of the “myths” of all those fake reel tapes currently online.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Nirvana on Vinyl, 1988-1994

On September 9, 1992 – 25 years ago this month -- Nirvana appeared on the MTV Music Awards to reluctantly perform “Lithium,” and the performance ended with Krist Novoselic tossing his bass in the air.  And then it landed on his head.  I play bass.  Not pleasant.
In celebration(?) of that, here’s a Nirvana vinyl discography from 1988 (their first release) through the spring of 1994 (Kurt Cobain’s death).  This is the most efficient (though not least expensive) way to find all of Nirvana’s music on vinyl from their brief time together.  So this list is not a guide to outtakes, bootlegs, reissues, foreign pressings, etc.  It’s just the most expedient way to get everything on original US and UK vinyl.  I have also included notes on what to buy if you just want everything on those new, easy-to-use CDs.

* “Love Buzz” / “Big Cheese” single
Includes picture sleeve.  This was the first entry in the Sub Pop Singles Club. A-side begins with a short sound montage that is unavailable elsewhere; the song without the montage is on the “Bleach” LP.  The B-side was added to pressings of “Bleach” starting in 1992.
On CD: On the “Bleach” LP, but without the montage intro.

Here's how to spot a LEGITIMATE copy...
-They have a fold-over sleeve (i.e. it’s a 7” by 14” piece of cardboard that is folded in the middle, so it opens like a book; the disk goes in between the folds)
-The text on the back can be seen read. Some copies have the names of Alice Wheeler and Suzanne Sasic too dark to read, or they've been traced over.
-The vinyl is black
-The labels are black with white print
-The matrix information is hand-written as follows:

Side A:
SP-23-A Why Don't You Trade Those Guitars For Shovels? L-31540

Side B:
SP-23-B L-31540X

Counterfeits often come close, but have errors in the matrices such as the print being too large (3mm on fakes; 2mm on legit copies). Some copies omit the question mark on the shovels quote, or add quotation marks, or even get the exact order (as listed above) wrong. Other copies dispense with the dashes, or have the information stamped instead of handwritten.
Legitimate copies also have "Kdisc" (the name of the pressing plant) stamped into the groove.

* “Spank Thru”
On the LP “Sub Pop 200” (also released as a boxed set of three 12” singles).
On CD: “Sub Pop 200.”

* “Bleach” LP
First studio album; 11 tracks. Original pressings (1,000 copies) on white vinyl; some copies came with a poster.  Second pressing (2,000 copies) on black vinyl; most of these copies came with a poster.  A few of the first- and second-pressing copies include a press kit as well.  Later pressings are on different colors, and pressings starting in 1992 added the songs “Big Cheese” and “Downer.”

* “Blew” EP
British EP, includes tracks that are also on “Bleach” or “Incesticide,” except the version of “Been a Son,” which is only available here and on 2002’s “Greatest Hits.”
On CD: All tracks on “Bleach” or “Incesticide,” except the version of “Been a Son,” which is only available here and on 2002’s “Greatest Hits.”

* “Do You Love Me?”
From the KISS tribute album, “Hard to Believe: A KISS Covers Compilation” (C/Z Records).
On CD: ““Hard to Believe”; "18 Original Hits Performed By 18 Unoriginal Artists" (PolyGram PMP 011, 2/21/95)

* “Sliver” single
On the U.S. 7” version only, the A-side is followed by a phone call from Sub Pop’s Jon Poneman to a very sleepy Krist Novoselic.  On the UK 12”, they add a live version of “About a Girl” from the Pine Street Theatre in Portland, Oregon, recorded February 9, 1990.
On CD: On the UK CD single, there is a fourth track, a live version of “Spank Thru” from the Pine Street show. “Sliver” and “Dive” are both on “Incesticide”; the entire Pine Street Theatre show is on the deluxe edition of “Bleach,” but has been remixed.  The original mixes are on the 1990 UK CD single.

* “Molly’s Lips”
Split single (with The Fluid) on Sub Pop with a live version of “Molly’s Lips” from the Pine Street Theatre in Portland, Oregon, recorded February 9, 1990.
On CD: The entire Pine Street Theatre show is on the deluxe edition of “Bleach,” but has been remixed.

* “Here She Comes Now”
Split single (with the Melvins) on colored vinyl from the Velvet Underground tribute album, “Heaven and Hell Vol. 1” (Communion Records).

* “Nevermind” LP
Original U.S. pressings are on black vinyl with a black label, and include a custom innersleeve.

* “Smells Like Teen Spirit” single
The UK 12" picture disk (first in a series of four) adds unique versions of “Even In His Youth” and “Aneurysm” (which is different from the one on “Incesticide”).
On CD: “Even In His Youth” is on the deluxe reissue of “Nevermind,” and “Aneurysm” is on WTLO.

* “Hormoaning” EP
Japan/Australia EP released February 5, 1992 to promote the band’s upcoming tour.  Contains six tracks, five of which are available on “Incesticide” or on singles listed on this page.  One song -- "D-7" – is from an October 21, 1990 John Peel/BBC session and is only available on vinyl here, or on the 2011 RSD reissue of the “Lithium” single (DGC DGCTP 9).  This EP was also reissued for RSD 2013.
On CD: All tracks are on “Incesticide” or the reissue of “Nevermind.”

* “Come As You Are” single
The UK 12" picture disk adds live versions of “Endless, Nameless” and “School” (recorded on Halloween, 1991 at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle).  The US 7” (no picture sleeve) instead has a version of “Drain You” from the same show.
On CD: The entire Paramount Theatre show is on the deluxe edition of “Nevermind,” and may have been remixed.  The original mixes are on the 1992 UK CD single.

* “Lithium” single
The UK 12" picture disk adds a live version of “Been a Son” (recorded at the Paramount Theatre, Seattle on Halloween, 1991) and the studio cut, “Curmudgeon.” 
A fourth track is added to the UK CD (“D-7”) from a John Peel/BBC session.  That cut is only on three pieces of vinyl: the 1992 “Hormoaning” EP, the 2011 Record Store Day reissue of this single (which includes all four cuts on a 10”, DGC DGCTP 9), or the 2013 RSD reissue of “Hormoaning.”
On CD: “Curmudgeon” and “D-7” are on WTLO; “Been a Son” is part of the entire Paramount Theatre show on the deluxe edition of “Nevermind,” and may have been remixed.  The original mix is on this 1992 CD single.

* “In Bloom” single
The UK 12" picture disk adds live versions of “Sliver” (recorded at the Paramount Theatre, Seattle on Halloween, 1991) and “Polly” (recorded at the O’Brien Pavilion, Del Mar, California, December 28, 1991).  “Sliver” is sometimes mistakenly listed as being from the Del Mar show.
On CD: Both tracks are on the reissue of “Nevermind,” where “Sliver” may have been remixed.  The entire Del Mar show was recorded by Westwood One for radio broadcast.  CDs – and possibly reel to reel tapes -- of the show were sent to radio stations.

* “Incesticide” LP
Compilation album released December 14, 1992. Original pressings are on blue vinyl and include a custom innersleeve.

* “Oh, the Guilt” single
Split 7” single (with The Jesus Lizard) on Touch and Go Records.  British copies (pressed in France) are on blue vinyl with silver labels; jackets have a UPC barcode that is clearly grafted onto the original artwork.  American pressings have a better-integrated UPC code, are on black vinyl with black labels.
On CD: Remixed for WTLO.

* “Return of the Rat”
From a boxed set of four 45s titled, “Eight Songs For Greg Sage and the Wipers” (Tim Kerr Records)
On CD: Original mix on "Fourteen Songs For Greg Sage and the Wipers" (Tim Kerr Records TK 917010 TRIB2, 1993); remixed for WTLO.

* “Heart-Shaped Box” single
UK 7” copies have a non-album B-side, “Marigold.”  American 12” promo copies have the non-album B-side “Gallons Of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through The Strip” (which was only on non-US CD copies of “In Utero” in 1993).
On CD: Both tracks are on WTLO and the reissue of “In Utero.”

* “In Utero” LP
Studio album released September 21, 1993. Original pressings are on clear, blue-tinted vinyl and include a custom innersleeve.  The front cover has a small legend at the bottom reading “Special Limited Edition Disc.” Later or non-American pressings have a UPC barcode on the back that looks grafted onto the original artwork; original American pressings have a better-integrated UPC code.

* “I Hate Myself and Want to Die”
From the various artists compilation, “The Beavis and Butthead Experience” (Geffen).
On CD: “The Beavis and Butthead Experience” (Geffen); remix is on WTLO.

* “All Apologies” single
The UK 12" and 7” vinyl issues add the song “M.V.”
On CD: The original mix is on the CD single from 1993. “M.V.” has been remixed for the reissue of “In Utero.”

* “Pennyroyal Tea”/”I Hate Myself and Want to Die” single
Slated for release in April, 1994, but shelved after the death of Kurt Cobain.  A-side was a remix of the “In Utero” track; the B-side would have been the same mix as on the “Beavis & Butthead” compilation.  For many years, a batch of supposedly legitimate UK copies of this 45 (with picture sleeve) circulated with collectors, but they are most likely fakes.  This single was finally issued for RSD 2014, with the original, album mix of the A-side and a remix of the B-side.
On CD: The reissue of “In Utero” contains both mixes of “Pennyroyal Tea” and the remix of “I Hate Myself and Want to Die.”  The original mix of “I Hate…” is only on “The Beavis & Butthead Experience.”

* “Pay to Play”
Demo version of “Stay Away” with different lyrics, released only on UK vinyl on the compilation album “Geffen Rarities, Vol. 1” (Geffen/MCA GFL-19247, September 21, 1994).
On CD: WTLO; “DGC Rarities, Vol. 1” (DGC/Geffen/MCA DGCD-24704, July 5, 1994)

CD only releases
* “Sappy”
No original vinyl release; first vinyl issue was on “No Alternative” for Record Store Day 2013.
On CD: WTLO; "No Alternative," (Arista/BMG 07822-18737-2, 1993).

* “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” (Le Summum, Grenoble, France, February 18, 1994)
No vinyl release.
On CD: “Home Alive-The Art of Self-Defense,” (Epic E2K67486, 1996); this is on the double CD edition only; a later single-disc version does not include the Nirvana track.

* “Rape Me” (“Saturday Night Live,” September 25, 1993)
No vinyl release.
On CD: “SNL The Musical Performances Vol. 2,” (Dreamworks 0044-50206-2, 1999)

* “Spank Thru” (1985 “Fecal Matter” demo); “Sappy” (1990 studio take); “Come As You Are” (1991 boombox version)
No vinyl release.
On CD: Only available on “Sliver: The Best of the Box” (2005), a sampler from WTLO that contains these three exclusive tracks.

So what does this mean to the CD buyer who wants all the music, and isn’t going to track down dozens of 20-30-year-old pieces of vinyl?  You need to buy the following…
Deluxe editions of “Bleach,” “Nevermind,” “In Utero” and “MTV Unplugged in New York”
“Incesticide” (1992)
“Live! Tonight! Sold Out!!” (video, 1994)
“From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah” (1996)
“With the Lights Out” (boxed set, 2004)
“Live at Reading” England 1992 (video, 2009)
“Live at the Paramount” Seattle 1991 (video, 2011)
“Live and Loud” Seattle 1993 (video, 2013)

And then to complete the official discography, find…
-intro to “Love Buzz”
-“Spank Thru” (“Sub Pop 200")
-“Do You Love Me?” (“Hard to Believe: A KISS Covers Compilation”)
-“Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” (live, 1994; “Home Alive-The Art of Self-Defense")
-“Rape Me” (live 1993; “SNL The Musical Performances Vol. 2")
-“Spank Thru” (1985 “Fecal Matter” demo); “Sappy” (1990 studio take); “Come As You Are” (1991 boombox version), from the 2005 CD “Sliver: The Best of the Box”
-“Been a Son” and “You Know You’re Right” (Greatest Hits, 2002)

Other curios:
An interesting, CD-only promo radio show featuring interviews with the band and previously released music.

* Nirvana recorded four BBC sessions: three for John Peel (10/26/89, 10/21/90, 9/3/91) and one for “Mark Goodier’s Evening Session” (11/9/91).  The 1990 and ’91 sessions are collected on WTLO, “Incesticide” and the reissue of “Nevermind.”  The 1989 John Peel session has never been officially released anywhere, but a very nice 7” bootleg EP (somewhat alluding to the design motif from “Blew”) is easily (and cheaply!) available.  The session featured versions of “Love Buzz,” “About A Girl,” “Polly,” and “Spank Thru.”

* In 2004, a radio series titled “Nightly Nirvana” began circulating to radio stations.  CDs of that show contain a great deal of unreleased material.

* The bootleg series “Outcesticide” has done an outstanding job of cataloging rare and unreleased Nirvana.

For a reference to every song Nirvana has ever released, click here.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Best of Glen Campbell

I posted this on Facebook when Glen Campbell died, but figured I would wait to print it here...

I only have one Glen Campbell album, "The Best of Glen Campbell," from 1976 (pictured above).  This was from an era when Capitol Records was running a campaign titled "The Greatest Music Ever Sold," with lots of compilations aimed at the holiday market.  This LP hit #11, and even though Glen could have probably filled three LPs with hits at that point -- and even though a lot of the other Capitol compilations were double albums -- they pared it down to his biggest hits on the POP -- not country -- charts for one disk.  So you don't have to listen to "Dreams of the Everyday Housewife," "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)," "True Grit," "Burning Bridges," "Manhattan, Kansas," "Bonaparte's Retreat," "Don't Pull Your Love," "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" or "Sunflower."  Or any of his '70s countrypolitan tunes (blech).  You also don't get the mellow theme to the Clint Eastwood film "Any Which Way You Can," which came out later (1980).
(For a good survey of his earlier country-only hits, check out 1971's "Greatest Hits," which has minimal overlap with "Best of.")
Another weird aspect of the 1976 album is that  the cover photo (complete with 1970s Dad hair) was apparently taken by Kenny Rogers?
I like this "Best of" not only because it's wall-to-wall enjoyable, but it doesn't substitute live versions for any of the hits (as later compilations seem to).  Beware of the CD of this album; it has a very different track list, but the same cover.
One Glen Campbell cut that never appears on any of his albums is 1965's "Guess I'm Dumb," a Beach Boys tune that Brian Wilson produced for Glen as he left the touring version of the Beach Boys and headed out on a solo career.
As a bonus... now here's a video I must have watched a thousand times when I was little: Glen Campbell from the Smothers Brothers' 20th Anniversary, joined at one point by the great John Hartford.  Within that medley, there's an excerpt of their 1968 appearance, which is available here.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Goodbye, cassette tapes! And VHS, 8-track, Minidisc, DV, Beta...

Around 2000 or 2001, a lot of TV stations started trying to go tapeless. They planned to rely on hard drives for playback and storage of shows, using tape only for ENG (electronic news gathering), which would immediately be digitized and edited for air. But the technology wasn't totally reliable yet. When 9/11 hit, a lot of stations found that out the hard way. Another decade passed before stations were able to really go tapeless, especially since they had to go HD anyway.
Until that point, I was something of a tape hoarder: cassettes, VHS, Hi8, U-Matic, Betacam AND Betamax, 8-track, microcassette, DV, DVCPro, reel tapes... Not only would I try to record my family, I had to tape community events and whatnot for work. I often copied rare TV and radio shows when I could find them.
"You have a Beta tape with an episode of ALF, including the original commercials? I'll send you a blank!"
"You've got a Peter Laughner private-press bootleg? I want it!"
And this was on top of my audio tapes, a collection that had grown since I was old enough to operate my portable Panasonic RQ-2107 cassette recorder. So in addition to store-bought cassettes, 8-tracks and reels, I had blanks with my various garage bands, rare concerts, mix tapes and all sorts of other weird stuff. There's a whole tape of me and my friend fake interviewing eachother in 8th grade under the pretense that he's a British journalist. Another tape is the birth of my younger brother. Playing all these back required me to keep a museum of machines on hand, from Teac 4-track reel decks to a Sony dual-record cassette with Dolby S to a NOS Panasonic car 8-track deck, which I always thought would look cool installed in a new car.
Around 2008, I realized... I'm not the library!  And a lot of this stuff was starting to be posted online.
So I began liquidating my equipment, while also digitizing the tapes. Say what you will about analog purity: I would much rather have the tape of my morning announcements from high school -- recorded with a handheld Toshiba recording Walkman, from a speaker in the ceiling of Mrs. Bernacek's room -- as a 40mb WAV file, instead of on a Richard Simmons Deal-A-Meal cassette with the record-safety tabs covered over. The quality difference does not faze me.
As I've tossed equipment and sent old tapes to either Goodwill or to collectors, my basement has slowly emptied out. My tape collection was likely not as extensive as some people, but it took up probably three large file cabinets, and the equipment was just a big, fat fire hazard.
Finally, last spring, I got a Sony DV/DVCPro  playback deck. Even though these tapes are digital, and the deck had FireWire out, modern computers can't handle that. So I went S-Video into my laptop, while also using a Teac stereo reel deck (on its last legs) to digitize reels into a Marantz flash recorder.

So what did I learn during this multi-year odyssey?
1) Magnetic media sounds magical, but is a pain to store.
2) Cassettes need to be played more than once every 20 years
3) I should have waited to sell all of my Nintendo stuff
4) Garrard turntables are satan
5) Minidiscs were unnecessary
6) Hi8/8mm/Digital8 recorders have the slowest fast-wind on planet Earth
7) There's nothing classic about old VCRs

More importantly, what did I see and hear?
1) A tape of my band from 8th grade playing, and we ROCKED
2) Another garage tape -- recorded with two microphones -- where I say "goodnight left microphone," and "goodnight right microphone" at the end.
3) My son and daughter introducing something called "the big, big shooooooow"
4) My brother asking me to play my "Yellow Submarine" record, and he keeps trying to sing "You all live in a Yellow Submarine" to bother me
5) Me interviewing people at the ice-cream shop in town, right after it opened
6) A tape of me at age 1, greeting my Dad after work, who asks my Mom if she had lunch.  She replies, "I haven't had a candy bar, I haven't had pizza, I haven't had ANYthing," as if those were the only acceptable options for lunch.

Anyhow, you see from the pic at the top of this post, I'm done digitizing!!!! That's the last box of tapes I had, all digitized and bulked and ready to go to the great tape room in the sky.

As for equipment, the Teac reel is going with them. I've sold the Sony DV deck and all my VCRs.  I have a nice Sony cassette machine and a couple of nice portable Walkman recorders to sell. And I'm keeping a nice Otari MX-5050 4-track reel, a Teac half-track reel and a Technics RS-T80R double cassette deck... just in case. Because there were about two dozen cassettes and reels I simply couldn't dump. That's the second pic in this post: a small box of recordings that were really, really good and sound amazing. No point in digitizing them if I still have nice playback machines and perhaps, years from now, I'll mixdown everything properly -- all-analog -- and have it pressed up onto vinyl.
I also saved a half-dozen tapes of family importance: that audio tape of my brother's birth, a brief interview with my Dad on the day he came to America in 1967, a video of my daughter as a newborn. Perhaps in a hundred years, they'll be able to take a magnetic tape and extract the atmosphere and reconstruct someone in person who existed on that tape. Sound crazy?  Well just imagine telling someone in 1917 that, someday, they could see and hear a person in a other country in real-time.  Mind-blowing!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Norm Macdonald Live with Sarah Silverman and David Letterman

Norm's "new season" has dropped with David Letterman!  It's really an apparent continuation of season 3, which began with two episodes last September and then went on hiatus.  Anyhow, I decided to write up my reviews of the show so far.

Season 1
-26 March 2013 Super Dave Osborne -- classic; Bob Einstein is a comedy machine
-2 April 2013 Tom Green -- low-key and Green seems sad, but is quite engaging
-9 April 2013 Fred Stoller -- good stories; hilarious reactions to Adam Eget
-16 April 2013 Russell Brand -- can't watch him
-23 April 2013 Billy Bob Thornton -- Norma transforms a weird and uncomfortable guest into someone watchable
-30 April 2013 Larry King -- another classic; far more entertaining than I would have guessed
-7 May 2013 Kevin Nealon -- cool SNL stories; always a good guest
-14 May 2013 Simon Helberg -- haven't seen it
-21 May 2013 Nick Swardson -- filthy and great but seems a little too in awe of Norm; watch for his Mr. Furley imitation alone
-27 May 2013 Andy Dick -- another pleasant surprise; much less annoying than I would have predicted
-11 June 2013 Gilbert Gottfried -- hilarious, but we need less callbacks! The show's only an hour!

Season 2
This season was uniformly entertaining...
-12 May 2014 Ray Romano
-21 May 2014 Adam Sandler
-26 May 2014 David Spade
-2 June 2014 Carl Reiner
-9 June 2014 Fred Willard
-16 June 2014 Todd Glass -- more comments about how Norm spent the whole time messing with him; NO! Norm messes with everyone
-30 June 2014 Bob Saget
-7 July 2014 David Koechner -- some commenters feel that Norm was apathetic toward David Koechner, or that Koechner misunderstood Norm's jokes, but I disagree.  He was entertaining
-14 July 2014 Roseanne Barr -- surprisingly low-key; very entertaining; best death stare at Adam Eget since Super Dave
-21 July 2014 Marc Maron
-28 July 2014 Martin Mull -- good chat about his stand-up
-7 August 2014  Jack Carter -- I believe this was his last appearance

Season 3
-15 September 2016 Stephen Merchant -- Norm starts by imitating William F. Buckley, which is appropriate since this ends up feeling more like a UK v US political roundtable (at one point, Merchant even asks why Norm isn't asking for cool showbiz stories, like when Adam Sandler was the guest)
-26 September 2016 Bill Hader -- cool showbiz stories, but Hader seems really low-energy
-25 July 2017 David Letterman -- classic

Upcoming guests?
Sarah Silverman (see pic) and Caitlyn Jenner have apparently already been taped, and Norm seems to confirm, in this interview, that Mike Tyson and Jim Carrey are being taped soon.  (UPDATE: Jerry Seinfeld airs next week).
Other upcoming guests listed on Wikipedia include Dana Carvey, Judd Apatow, Margaret Cho, Jerry Mathers, Bobby Lee, Conan O'Brien, Bruce Vilanch, Artie Lange and Jon Hein.  Norm also mentioned in the above article that he's been trying to get O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake.