Friday, December 29, 2006

Hey, How 'bout Some Christmas Cheer!

During the holiday season everyone loves listening to the same old Christmas/Holiday tunes, for me A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio always gets me in the mood. Another favourite that always made me laugh is the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas which I haven't listened to in years because the cassette is buried somewhere in the basement (I think?). When I was growing up, my dad always spun Perry Como's Christmas Album, usually to the groans of my brother, sister and I.

Believe it or not, there is lots of semi-cool holiday related music out there. Please have a listen and if you have other alternative-X-Mas tunes to share with us, let me know. I've lifted some music from other blogs and enjoyment.

Rugburns- I Hate F*cking Christmas
Yo La Tengo- Rock N Roll Santa

AsobiSeksu- Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight)

Velocity Girl- Merry X-Mas I Love you
Michael Stipe- We're Not So Bad [from Olive the Other Reindeer]

REM- Ghost Reindeer In The Sky
Young Fresh Fellows- O Little Town Of Bethlehem

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Pretenders '79 BBC Sessions

I was so excited about the Pretenders re-issue of their first two albums (see last post), that I had to fill my fix by listening to some live Pretenders. I know for a fact I had several live shows with the original line-up burned to disc in one of my many many storage boxes in one of the rooms of my house. I love Christmas..well kind of..I DO love those Christmas oranges, you know the ones, the mandarines from China and Japan that are easy to peel and sweet to eat. Anyways, they come packed in 5 or 9 lb orange coloured boxes that fit CD's quite nicely, so at Christmas time we go through about half a dozen boxes and word got out at work I need more boxes, so my house is now overcrowded with CD filled orange boxes. Right now I have a few more boxes worth of CD's that need storage (to keep from falling on the floor), so I have to go and fill my vitamin C quota for the day.

I eventually found a few of the discs I was looking for and one of the better sounding ones is a disc with BBC sessions recorded in 1979, the year before their first album was released. I have 4 songs from an in-studio session for February of that year, as well as 4 songs from an in-studio in July. I have posted for your listening pleasure a portion (all I have) of the BBC "In Concert" '79 radio broadcast, I don't have the exact date nor the location of this live concert, but it is a pretty good sounding show. In fact it's so good I have to share this!

The Pretenders BBC "In Concert" 1979
The Wait
Stop Your Sobbing
Cuban Slide
Brass In Pocket
Tattooed Love Boys
Mystery Achievement

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Re-issues: Pretenders I and II

Always a popular gift idea is the re-issue of a previously released album that has been re-mastered and re-packaged with a truckload of bonus tracks (+ xtra disc). On Both Pretenders I and II, the first disc is the original remastered album, while disc #2 features demos, unreleased and live tracks. The live cuts especially showcase what a great band the original line-up was, the Pretenders were made up of Chrissie Hynde, the late James Honeyman-Scott, the late Pete Farndon and drummer Martin Chambers

Believe it or not, the first Pretender's album was issued almost 27 years ago in January of 1980. The year previous they had released the singles for Stop Your Sobbing, Kid and Brass In Pocket. If you didn't own the album, these were the songs that you would have identified the Pretenders with. When I first heard the whole album I was completely blown away, the other songs rocked way harder than the radio hits and the range in material from punk to rock, instrumental to ballad is solid! One of the local FM radio stations back in the early 80's played complete albums uninterupted at midnight. Certain nights were designated as "classic album nights" playing such treats as Sticky Fingers, Dark Side Of The Moon, Beggars Banquet, Who's Next, Led Zeppelin IV etc. A fine introduction to some essential stuff for listeners who suffered through the repeated playing of only hit singles. Of course in those days I taped everything including Pretenders I, I listened to that tape for years (I was too cheap to buy the album), even though my radio recorded copy had skips on two of the tracks on side one. Obviously, this upgraded CD will continue to provide me with many more happy listenings.

Pretenders II was the last album with the short-lived original line-up, both Honeyman-Scott and Farnden overdosed after the release of II and musically the group was never the same. I admit Learning to Crawl (3rd album, 1982) was my second favourite Pretenders album and it was a big hit on radio, but the group never regained the same intensity and edge as their previous discs. The Pretenders became known as Chrissie Hynde and her revolving door of backing musicians and I kind of lost interest. I honestly don't think I can name more than 2 or 3 songs the Pretenders have done since 1986 (that's 20 years ago!). For any newer fans of the band these re-issues are a wonderful way to discover the early songs that made them famous. Needless to say, Pretenders II reissue has some fine moments as disc 2 is almost entirely live versions. Still high energy and tight, yet maybe slightly more reserved, the more I listen to II, the more I appreciate how classic this album is!

Pretenders I
Brass In Pocket (demo, much slower version) she says, "Your special" instead of "I'm special" , changes the meaning of the song?
Kid (demo)
Precious (live)
Tatooed Love Boys (live)

Pretenders II
Message Of Love (live)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Still Worth 75 Cents: Velvet Underground Acetate

I guess somethings can sometimes be too good to be true. The Globe And Mail Newspaper has reported that the buyer of the VU acetate offered up on eBay last week is a sham! This may seem harsh, but what else can you say about this overly hyped (by guys like me) auction with major media coverage across North America. The winning bidder, Mechadaddy outbid the next person by only $100 and he registered that bid about three and a half hours before bidding closed, so he probably didn't bid-snipe it. If his attention seeking story is to believed, it might have been just bad luck his "friend's" bid stood. With the amount of bids rejected and withdrawn, because of low feedback and probable lack of funds, it's a wonder how this one slipped past eBay.

So this means I still have a crack at this prized possession, too bad my eBay feedback is kind of low (20) and I don't think my credit card can handle anything more than a few more Christmas presents. Warren Hill says he's not the most passionate of VU fans, anyone that knows me knows I'm a very big fan of the Velvet's and I wouldn't mind framing this disc for my living room. Hmmm.. it would sure look good on my wall when the folks come over for Christmas, but there would be a lot of explaining to do when they find out I mortgaged the house.
In case you can't link to the G & M article, I'll save you the dollar and publish it below.

Rare acetate still seeks buyer

Reports that Velvet Underground pressing fetched $155,000 false, JAMES ADAMS reports

Monday, December 11, 2006

The fabled acetate of the Velvet Underground's famous first recording is still worth only 75 cents (U.S.).

This is because the highest bidder in a 10-day online auction for the fragile acetate that ended last Friday evening "has proved to be bogus," a disappointed Warren Hill said yesterday. He's the 30-year-old Montrealer who, in September 2002, innocently paid 75 cents for the 12-inch, nine-song acetate after finding it at a street sale in New York's Chelsea district. Later he determined the acetate was, in fact, a test-pressing of sorts, from 1966, of the Velvet Underground's first-ever recording session in a grungy New York studio.

Hill and a friend, Portland, Ore. record-store proprietor Eric Isaacson, arranged this fall to have Saturn Records of Oakland, Calif. oversee the sale of the acetate on eBay, starting Nov. 28. By around 11:30 p.m. ET Friday, the auction's closing, the winning bid seemed to be $155,401 (U.S.) from a buyer called "mechadaddy" apparently living in the Los Angeles area. Yesterday, the major news services, including Reuters and Associated Press, were in fact reporting that the disc sold for that sum. When the Globe reached Hill, though, the story was different.

On the weekend Saturn received an e-mail from the supposed winner who said a friend, unbeknownst to him, had, as a lark, bid on the acetate using his (the supposed winner's) computer at work and account number. "Ohmigod, I'm so sorry," the e-mail read in part. "I can barely afford gas for my car" let alone more than $150,000 for a 40-year-old disc of acetone-covered aluminum.

The Hill acetate has attracted considerable attention in the last two years, largely because of its rarity.

There may be only one other one in existence. As well, the sequencing, arrangements and mixes of the material are different from what was eventually released, in 1967, as The Velvet Underground and Nico album. That recording, with a cover by Velvets' mentor Andy Warhol, was recently voted the 13th greatest rock record ever by the editors of Rolling Stone.

Speaking from Backdoor Records and Pastries, the business he owns in Montreal, Hill admitted he's "totally" disappointed by the turn of events. At the same time, "I kind of had my doubts early on . . . especially when the numbers started to jump more than we thought they would."

Hill, Isaacson and Saturn Records figured "realistically" the acetate might sell for between $10,000 and $30,000. Bidding, in fact, stayed within the low to mid-five figures for the first five or six days of the auction, but then leaped into the $100,000 realm on Dec. 3. By Wednesday last week, it had reached $130,000.

Asked what's next for the acetate, Hill said "there's a couple of different things that might happen," but he refused to specify what they are. One possibility might be to find -- or at least try to find -- a legitimate under-bidder among the 200-plus individuals who posted offers online. Another might be to sell the acetate at a live auction, possibly at one of the more reputable record conventions in the U.S.

Truth be told, Hill's not the most passionate of Velvet Underground fans. A recent graduate, in history, from Concordia University, he's president of the self-founded Irma Thomas and Minit Records Fan Club (Thomas is a New Orleans soul singer, Minit a now-defunct indie record label) and the publisher of a music fanzine called $2 (Comes with Mixtape).

"Right now I'm getting caught up in Christmas," he said. He'll be shutting up Backdoor Records and Pastries shortly to head out to Vancouver to visit his parents. Then early in the new year, he's off to Taiwan for a visit he describes as "part holiday, part scholarly."

Good luck to Warren and I hope he finds a legit buyer, i'm sure this story isn't over yet...stay tuned. Let me know what you think!

update Dec 14: Second chance! Listed again on eBay, starting bid of $0.99, bidding ends December 21st 14:04 pst. this auction is restricted to pre-approved bidder only.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Young Fresh Fellows "Picture Book"

Life couldn't get much better than this, more Young Fresh Fellows videos, I just couldn't resist! You may have seen this already at (though the link doesn't work anymore), but this video is worth seeing over and over. "Picture Book" is from "This One's For the Ladies" album circa 1989, this is the Fellows in their prime. A great rendition of the old Kinks tune from the "Village Green" album, I know Ray Davies would be proud.

Hmm.. 4 drummers? For you YFF newbies, do you know which one is their "real" drummer? (for the answer, watch the KTZZ-TV clip).
Young Fresh Fellows (1992) KTZZ-TV, Seattle

Here's a sweet gem, my favourite band, the Young Fresh Fellows in a rare television performance! It's not Letterman or even Conan, but it was shown on a local Seattle TV station, "The Spud Goodman show". The Fellows perform "She Sees Color", "99 Girls" and "Monkey Say" from their (then) new album "It's Low Beat Time". I have had the fortune of seeing the Fellows live twice, the first time was Winnipeg in '91 then in Vancouver with TMBG in 1992. They were without a doubt the BEST live band I have ever seen. They now only play a show or two a year since Scott McCaughey is busy most of the year with his fullish-time band, the Minus 5 along with supporting roles in REM and Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3. If you have the opportunity to see the Young Fresh Fellows live..see them! Enjoy!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas Gift Idea #1: Velvet Underground Acetate on Ebay

If you're looking for the ideal gift for the hard to buy for (like me, hint, hint!), check out this item on Ebay. It's the 1966 acetate for the first Velvet Underground LP and according to the item description, it's "arguably the rarest and most important rock'n'roll and pop-art artifact in the world". In case you can't link to the item description on Ebay or the auction for this item mysteriously disappears, I've copied this intriging story for the benefit of you readers! (warning: it's quite long)

Following is excerpted and adapted (with the author's approval) from the article written by Eric Isaacson of Mississippi Records in Portland Oregon which is featured in the December 8, 2006 issue of Goldmine Magazine currently on newsstands through mid December:


In September of 2002 Warren Hill of Montreal Canada was perusing a box of records at a Chelsea, New York street sale when he happened upon a nice Leadbelly 10" on Folkways, a water damaged copy of the first Modern Lovers LP on Beserkely, and a brittle 12" piece of acetone-covered aluminum with the words "Velvet Underground. 4-25-66. Att N. Dolph" written on the label. He purchased the three records for 75 cents each.

As I have a small knowledge of records and am an old friend of Warren's, I got a call from him the next day in which he described the acetate. Because of the date and the unique type of pressing, we both agreed that it was probably an in-studio acetate made during the recording of the first Velvet Underground LP back in 1966 (I had heard that they occasionally would have a vinyl cutting lathe in the studio to cut records of the day's recordings for the artists and/or producers to take home for review). Warren didn't want to play the mysterious platter due to the fragile nature of acetates, and the cheap nature of his record needle, so we agreed that the next time he was visiting me in Portland we would check it out together. If it turned out to be what we thought it was, maybe we could sell it at Mississippi Records, the small neighborhood record store in Portland that I work at. Sight unseen and sound unheard, I assumed that it was likely an acetate pressing of the recording which would be eventually be released as the group's first album, "The Velvet Underground & Nico".

It took awhile for Warren to visit, but when he did he brought along the acetate. We cued it up and were stunned -- the first song was not "Sunday Morning" as on the "Velvet Underground & Nico" Verve LP, but rather it was "European Son"- the song that is last on that LP, and it was a version neither of us had ever heard before! It was less bombastic and more bluesy than the released version, and it clocked in at a full two minutes longer. I immediately took the needle off the record, and realized that we had something special. Between the two of us we had heard many Velvets outtakes on both official and less than official releases, but the present material had never been heard by either of us.

The next few days found us scrambling for clues and information about what to make of this find; calling every record collector/historian we knew and reading everything we could find concerning the early recordings of the VU. We pieced together that this was probably a surviving copy of the legendary Scepter studios recordings which had been regarded as lost (hence the epic moniker "the lost scepter studios recordings" applied to these unheard sessions over the years). The recording is comprised of the primitive first "finished" version of the LP that Andy Warhol had shopped to Columbia as a ready-to-release debut album by his protege collective "The Velvet Underground".

This acetate, which is possibly the only surviving copy, represents the first Velvet Underground album as Andy Warhol intended it to be released.

Though the same compositions and even a few of the same "takes" (albeit in different mixes) were used on the subsequent commercial release, that which was eventually issued as their debut album on Verve, "The Velvet Underground & Nico", was a significantly different creation. I had heard of these nascent recordings before... it was said by some that the master tapes had burned in a fire, by others that all of those recordings ended up being on the released album, and still by others that the only existing copy of that material was on an acetate owned by David Bowie, and that he was known to tout it as his most prized possession.

The truth about what we held was fuzzy until Warren managed to track down the N. Dolph referred to on the label for an interview.

Norman Dolph was a perennial in the New York art & music scene of the 1960's. He worked as a sales representative at Columbia Records through 1967, and was deeply involved with different facets of the independent music world on the side. Andy Warhol, who was managing the Velvets at the time, contacted Dolph & offered him a painting in exchange for services as "ghost" (uncredited) producer for the Velvet's first recording session. Warhol wanted to record a Velvets album before they had a record company behind them as this would tend to minimize meddling label executives' mobility in compromising the musical arrangement's distraught primal force, not to mention the unprecedented taboo lyrics which openly address sex, drugs, and depravity. Warhol's plan was to have Dolph record it and then shop it around to labels (first & foremost Columbia) as a finished recording.

...and so Dolph rented out Scepter studios, and with an engineer named John Licata by his side, they recorded the Velvets for four days. At the time Scepter studios was between reconstruction and demolition with walls falling over and holes in the floor. Velvets' bass & viola player John Cale would later recall the environment as "Post-Apocalyptic".

Dolph took the master tapes made during this session to the Columbia building, which still had an in-house pressing plant, and cut the acetate "after hours" with people he knew on the inside. Dolph then sent the acetate to Columbia to see if they were interested in releasing it. It was returned promptly with a note that said something akin to "do you think we're out of our f**king minds?" Dolph then gave the acetate to Andy Warhol or John Cale, he cannot remember which.

Six of the songs recorded during the Scepter session made it on to the "Velvet Underground & Nico" LP, albeit with radically different mixes. The other four songs were re-recorded in LA by Tom Wilson. As far as we know, the only listenable copy of the original versions of Heroin, Venus In Furs, I'm Waiting For The Man, and European Son exist on the acetate that Warren found. (A Japanese bootleg of the same material did appear, but in poor, arguably ‘unlistenable' sound quality. It is possible that the source tape for the Japanese bootleg was made from this very acetate decades when it was in different hands. Who knows?) We have since realized that we are in possession of a likely one of a kind artifact - the first recordings by one of the most influential rock bands of all time!

After establishing the authenticity of Warren's find we photographed the item and made a high quality digital back-up copy of the material. A media frenzy ensued, with articles appearing in Rolling Stone, Mojo, Record Collector, The Globe & Mail, and many other news sources. Calls started flooding in from people interested in buying the acetate, as well as record companies interested in releasing the songs on it. After much consideration, we decided that it would be best to release it to the highest bidder through an auction facilitated by our good friends at Saturn Records in Oakland, California (a store that has a well-established presence in the international vinyl collecting community, and an excellent reputation on the internet).

As to the most interesting mystery brought up by the appearance of this item - how did such an important artifact disappear for 37 years & end up at a Chelsea New York yard sale priced at 75 cents? ...We have no answer.

Wow! As I write this the bidding is well over $100,000 with over 4 days left for auction. I seriously can't see any old fan buying this, it would have to be a record label or someone that will officially release this to the masses to make a profit. The actual disc should find it's way into the Rock'n'Roll Hall Of Fame And Museum in Cleveland or the EMP in Seattle.

I have this recording to share, it's taken from a different and supposedly noisier acetate than the one mentioned in the article. This acetate has lots of scratches/pops and surface noice, so you've been warned. If you want the uncompressed version, you can get it here . (Trader's Den, you'll need to register) If you have problems listening/downloading the songs, please let me know.

The track differences between the acetate versions and the commercial recordings on "The Velvet Underground & Nico" are detailed as follows:

1.European Son -completely different version,. Guitar solo is much bluesier. Less noisy and experimental. Longer by 2 minutes or so.

2.Black Angel's Death Song-Same take as released version. Different mix.

3.All Tomorrows Parties-Same take as released version. Different mix.

4.I'll Be Your Mirror-Same take as released version. Radically different mix. No echo on Nico's vocals. Background vocals on end of song are more subdued.

5.Heroin-Completely different take than released version. Guitar line is different. Vocal inflections different, and a few different lyrics. Drumming is more primitive & off kilter. There is a tambourine dragging throughout the song.

6.Femme Fatale- Same take as released version. Radically different mix. Percussion more prominent. Alternate take on background vocals. Much more "poppy".

7.Venus In Furs- Different take than released version. Vocal inflections completely different. Instrumentation more based around Cales' violin than the guitar as in the released version.

8.I'm Waiting For The Man- Different take than released version. Guitar line is completely different. Vocal inflections different, and a few different lyrics. No drums, just tambourine. Bluesy guitar solo.

9.Run Run Run- Same take as released version. Different mix.

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