Sunday, August 26, 2012

V is for Venom

Some guy told me that products with names starting with the letter V never sell as well as competing "non-V" brands. I always preferred Vivarin to NoDoz, and it's my understanding that Vagisil is the industry standard of the yeast infection world, but I believed the guy. I made a solemn vow to never name one of my bands with a V first letter-- a vow I've kept to this day.

Van Halen - Fair Warning (1981)
I've already written about this record at least twice (#1, #2), so I'll spare you. I like Van Halen, Diver Down, and 1984 almost as much for lots of reasons, but Fair Warning is the best.

Townes Van Zandt - Live at the Old Quarter (1977)
My first favorite Townes record was Live and Obscure, which I've since lost. I still tell myself that the L & O versions are better than the Old Quarter ones, which doesn't seem possible but sure is fun to believe.

The Vaselines - The Way of the Vaselines: A Complete History (1992)
Me and my friends I lived with in Providence once found an unidentified mixed tape in our house. The cassette was mysteriously and beautifully labelled white hot bee shot through flesh. Either (1) it belonged to former tenants of the house, (2) it was accidentally left behind by a girl that came over, or (3) it was a gift from a girl that came over. We knew it was made by a girl because the label on the tape was exquisitely written in very cool lowercase letters no male would be capable of rendering. Scenario (1) seemed ridiculous, so it had to be (2) or (3). Since we were drunk at least 85% of the time we lived at this particular house, (3) was the clear-cut winner.

Anyway, side A of white hot bee opened with "Son of a Gun," as I'm sure thousands of other cool tapes have opened across the world. The frightening thing about this mix was the B side, which featured an ambient "song" featuring what we believed to be a young child whimpering, possibly while being tortured. The "crying song" was so terrifying that I almost had a nervous breakdown listening to it one morning while I was deathly hung over. We never tried very hard to solve the mystery of the tape, probably out of mortal fear.

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Texas Flood (1983)
So fucking good.

Velvet Crush - In The Presence Of Greatness (1991)
So fu Here's a record that just feels right. I (barely) remember staggering around pushing this one on anyone forced to listen, calling it "what the new Fanclub should sound like." Unfortunately, when Velvet Crush got their turn to make a "studio" album, they just couldn't make it stick. Too bad, because Teenage Symphonies... is really good too.

The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
I made a name for myself for a while with asinine jukebox hijinks, like playing the Scorps' "Ветер перемен" (the Russian version of "Wind of Change") three times in a row at a bar in Montreal, or pulling the "00" trick to play awful albums like Jagged Little Pill in their entirety. I was nearly thrown out/beat up for delivering another three-fer at a joint in Kenai, AK: the Velvets' "All Tomorrow's Parties" with two encores.

The Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat (1968)

If the third VU made me want to write my own songs, this one made me want to record them. Myself, that is. I had to play "Sister Ray" at least three times in a row the first time I heard it, just to make sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing. One of the most important things I've ever listened to.

The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground (1969)

If the second VU made me want to record my own songs, this one made me want to write the songs first. Tough to make an album this perfect, especially when it contains nine minutes of embarassing garbage.

The Velvet Underground - Loaded (1970)

I've slagged this record so many times, it's a bit surprising that I have any friends left at all. Of course it's great! I just thought it should've been their best record instead of their worst. And if it's not their worst, which of the other three is it better than?

Venom - Black Metal (1982)
Drawn by Satan?
OK, I've never even heard this record, but I believe it's the one to have if you're interested in Venom (it features a song called "Countess Bathory," OK?). There was a weird guy named Vinnie at my high school that was pretty much the biggest Venom fan on Earth, or any other realm. I figured Vinnie listened to Venom because they were the only metal band that had yet to disappoint him; perhaps no other group of men could possibly live up to his unspeakably evil standards. Slayer? Used to like 'em. Metallica? Fucking sellouts. Maiden? Please!!!
Vinnie had lots of Venom shirts (at least five, anyway), but the Black Metal one stuck with me. Not that I ever let Vinnie know that I was looking at it or him, of course.

The Verlaines - Bird Dog (1987)
A great record to listen to by yourself.

Versus - "Let's Electrify" EP (1993)
I can't find my copy. Probably lost in the "take whatever the fuck you want as long as I can keep the computer" portion of my divorce. Pretty hard to find, but has to be their finest release. Recorded at the legendary Studio Red in Philly, pre-flood.

V-3 - Photograph Burns (1996)
I think Joey Pants gave me a promo of this, but maybe not. Dark, great, and tragic.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Game Changers"

One of my favorite games to play with friends is something we call "Roll the Bones." To play, one distributes ten fair dice (ten-sided dragon dice are optimal, but not required) amongst all players (as equally as possible), and the players roll all ten dice simultaneously. Each player creates their own distinct ten-digit number sequence (not starting with "0" or "1") using the digits randomly generated by the dice, and then enters their unique sequence into their cellular phone. The players depress their "call" buttons at the same time, and upon connection with a receiving party begin screaming at maximum volume into their phones. The player that keeps their target receiver on the phone the longest wins that particular round.

Another fun game is to create specific musical criteria for bands, albums, musicians, etc., and name as many examples as possible that satisfy or exemplify the conditions. Example: Bands whose second album was generally considered to be their finest, or Bands named after a member other than the lead singer, or "Good" bands whose album catalogs contain a majority of releases that are "not good."

Of course the answers are highly subjective, which is why the game is so fun. Anyway, here's a new one I thought of a few nights ago... It expands on an earlier topic I came up with: Bands that were successful in two different incarnations, each featuring a different lead singer.

[note: You might have some better ideas than the ones I'm suggesting-- please share/discuss via comments! It's really fun!]

"Game Changers"
Bands that replaced or added a member(s) and reached new levels of success.
The band must have a minimum of two proper full-length releases before the addition/replacement, and the new member must be an integral part of the newfound success. So, no Peart for Rutsey.

Fleetwood Mac - Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham replace Bob Welch (1975)
Tough to beat this one. Bob Welch was a major Mac member, but the Buckingham/Nicks upgrade was like getting Ruth/Gehrig for Jimmy Dykes. Or like getting Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton for Bob Welch...

Journey - Steve Perry replaces Robert Fleischman (1977)
Perry really was recruited to augment the existing vocalists Neil Schon and Gregg Rolie-- a job Fleischman apparently couldn't hack. Have you ever heard Gregg Rolie sing "Open Arms?" Me neither.

AC/DC - Brian Johnson replaces Bon Scott (1980)
Before you accuse me of blasphemy, I love Bon Scott. It's just that Back In Black is one of the biggest selling albums in the history of mankind, so I think this qualifies.

Doobie Brothers - Michael McDonald replaces Tom Johnston (1975)
That's gotta suck... "Hey bro, sorry about your ulcer. Listen, Mike's just gonna fill in for a while."

Faith No More - Mike Patton replaces Chuck Mosley (1988)
I owned records by these guys both before and after the above switch, and I can attest to the fact that Faith No More became a better and more popular band as a result.

Genesis - Phil Collins replaces John Mayhew (1970)
'Nuff said.

More Drummers:
Sleater-Kinney - Janet Weiss replaces Laura Macfarlane (1996)
Completed the new definition of power trrrio with vocals, style, and kick-ass drums.

Flaming Lips - Steven Drozd replaces Nathan Roberts (1991)
They just happened to start selling lots of records when this guy starts playing drums? Hmm...

Simple Minds
- Mel Gaynor replaces Mike Ogletree (1982)
Listen to "Don't You (Forget About Me)" and report back to me. Don't forget.

Sort of:
Red Hot Chili Peppers - John Frusciante replaces DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight (1988)
Tough one. They've gotten so big it doesn't seem to matter who plays guitar at this point.

Survivor - Jimi Jamison replaces Dave Bickler (1984)
Most people think "Eye of the Tiger" when Survivor comes up, and that's Bickler. On the other hand, I think of "High On You," "The Search Is Over," "I Can't Hold Back," and other hit singles featuring vocalist Jimi Jamison.