Weird at My School: My Back Pages

by DJ El Toro

I spent the weekend listening to Martha and the Muffins records, and editing a Q&A session with Thomas Dolby (for his press kit to promote a new DVD — yes, that one), and am feeling a wee bit nostalgic this morning. In that spirit, here are updates on a few of the preview entries from Weird at My School.

Last night’s Was (Not Was) set at the Tractor in Ballard was tight as a drum. Casino band tight, even. Their sax player seemed to have learned his instrument from listening to “Careless Whisper” on repeat, but otherwise, I had no complaints; they got “Walk the Dinosaur” out of the way early. Smart. The highlight was a variety show-style run medley of their early 12-inch singles, including “Tell Me That I’m Dreaming,” “Robot Girl,” “Wheel Me Out,” and “Out Come The Freaks.” The interpolation a live mash-up of Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly” with “Sunshine Superman” by Donovan, into the middle of “I Blew Up the United States,” was pretty sweet, too.

Down To Earth, the forthcoming sophomore album from KEXP fave Jem, features a new song (“And So I Pray”) that includes a sample of “A Summer Long Since Past” off of From Gardens Where We Feel Secure by Virginia Astley. The tune was produced by Jem’s pal Mike Bradford, who turned her on to Astley. Only he didn’t originally tell her who the source artist was. “He just said to me, Oh, this is my Mum’s gardening CD. I’d never heard the song, but it was beautiful, and it just hit my heart,” she told me recently. A while later, she heard the track again… on the soundtrack of Miranda July’s film You And Me And Everyone We Know. She stuck around for the credit. “I was shocked, because I didn’t know that it was Virginia Astley. It was just the gardening CD.” Down To Earth is due out in September.

Speaking of new releases: Real Animal, the latest solo album from Alejandro Escovedo, includes a song inspired by his cowpunk cohorts in Rank And File, entitled “Chip n’ Tony.” Release date on that one is June 24.

Work on my needlepoint reproduction of Talking Heads Remain in Light has been temporarily sidelined by a rash of pending newborns (i.e. it is baby blanket-making season). There’s a snapshot of my very modest progress so far here.

In my March post about the box set People Take Warning: Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs 1913 – 1938, I referred to “the late Gordon Lightfoot.” Oops. Mr. Lightfoot is quite alive. I was thinking of the late Dan Fogelberg. My apologies, and gracias to the reader to gently pointed out my gaffe. I may not be a Lightfoot fan, but I certainly don’t wish the man dead.

If you are even a casual T. Rex aficionado, make sure to read Tony Visconti: The Autobiography: Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy, now out in paperback. This tome by the superstar producer — and early Marc Bolan booster — is chock full of insights, both high and low, into how the glam rock icon operated. On a related note, Black Postcards: A Rock & Roll Romance by Dean Wareham — who tapped Visconti to produce the Dean & Britta albums — is one of the most entertaining music-related books I have devoured. Succinct, mercilessly blunt, funny, and weird. Just like Wareham’s songs. Highly recommended. Both books are available from Seattle Public Library, FYI.

Ed Tomney, who collaborated with visual artist Jonathan Borofsky on The Radical Songbirds of Islam, pops up on Big Sky, the 1981 record by The Necessaries. I purchased this album on eBay last week because that short-lived band also included my hero, Arthur Russell, and Ernie Brooks of Modern Lovers fame. Tomney wrote most of the LP, which, I must confess, didn’t really blow my skirt up. But there is one song, “Detroit Tonight,” a co-write by Arthur and Ernie, that I can’t quit playing. You can learn more about that particular song — and listen to it, too — in the entry from the archives of one of my favorite blogs, Little Hits.

Throbbing Gristle still scare the crap out of me.

DJ El Toro is the host of the overnight show In Between Sleep & Reason, Wednesday mornings from 1 AM to 6 AM on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle and kexp.org. His column, Weird At My School, appears every Monday on the KEXP Blog.

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One Comment

  1. Posted May 19, 2008 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    (1.) I have been looking for “This Is The Ice Age” on vinyl for years, and can never seem to find it. I originally got it for review for my zine when it came out. Bob from The Blakes is also a fan of the band.

    (2.) For some reason, my favorite Dolby album is “The Flat Earth.” The title track alone is the best song Joni Mitchell never did.

    (3.) Throbbing Gristle are a genuinely scary band, for sure. And I love them to death for it. “Hot On The Heels Of Love” …

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