Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: Best Songs By Anyone Ever, Volume 1 (Crowded House “Better Be Home Soon”)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

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Thebeau: Neil Finn has written and sung several of the greatest songs by anyone ever: “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” “Something So Strong” and “Fall At Your Feet” just to name a few. I’d like to throw in “Better Be Home Soon” as one of the Best Songs By Anyone Ever. In a songwriter’s circle with Roddy Frame and Graham Gouldman, Finn wittily observes that “Better Be Home Soon” has a similar verse/chord progression to the Verve’s “Drugs Don’t Work” (also a good song). He then proves the point by singing a bit of the latter over the former. While the verses are somewhat similar, the big difference between these two songs is the selection of notes for the melodies of their respective choruses. Ashcroft’s casually dispensed lines in the Verve tune are cool and in keeping with the “on a losing streak” tone. But, in Finn’s chorus, when he holds the long note for “I know I’m riiiiiight,” over a C-chord that changes to a C7 underneath, then lifts to F, it’s like steel girders appear to support the resolution in the second half of the line, “for the first time in my life.”

The songwriter’s circle performance also includes Finn talking the others through playing the bridge, where he says, “tricky chords coming up … B flat …” And away they go through a McCartney-esque key change that dances a pirouette and lands on its feet back in the original key. “It’s all smooth sailing from here,” he says and indeed it is, as Frame plays one of the best pop acoustic-guitar solos I’ve ever heard. The audience agrees and applauds, as the vocal starts for the last verse. The last chorus of “Better Be Home Soon” is sort of a double, with a brilliant turn-around chord popped in between the repetitions of the last line. Sung a cappella, the calmly resolute message is delivered directly between the ears.

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From The Desk Of Finn’s Motel: A Walk In The Garden Part 1 (Brandywine Tomatoes)

Finn’s Motel mastermind/auteur Joe Thebeau gifted us in late 2006 with the amazing, out-of-nowhere Escape Velocity debut, a concept album about leaving behind the drudgery of cubicle life and suburban malaise for some greater, unknown existence. Even with the help (cough) of a January 2007 MAGNET profile, it took Thebeau nearly 11 years to finally follow it up with the outstanding new Jupiter Rex (Victory Over Gravity). Thebeau will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Finn’s Motel feature.

Thebeau: I’ve been gardening for several years. My goal has never been to sustain myself or my family. My garden exists so that I can eat stuff I like that I can’t get at the grocery store. I’m not an organic gardener, though I do limit chemical use to Miracle-Gro and a fungicide for the fungus that has attacked my transplants the past couple years. I buy heirloom seeds from Baker Creek, in part because I love getting the catalog in the mail every year in January and leafing (ahem) through its gorgeous pages (garden porn). I like to choose what vegetables to grow based on the descriptions in the catalog and occasionally by other gardeners’ online reviews. The more interesting the description the more likely I am to want to try it.

Today’s vegetable is the Brandywine tomato, chosen partially because of the product description but also due to it having too booze words in the name. “Brandy” and “wine”? Sign me up. Also, if you like to sing to your plants (and who doesn’t?), you could use the melody of “Brandy, You’re A Fine Girl” swapping in “Brandywine” as much as possible. I’m not saying I do this, but I’m not saying I don’t do this, either. Anyway, I grew these last year and they were the biggest, meatiest, best-tasting tomatoes I think I’ve ever grown. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t water them as much as I should or if it’s just a normal thing for this variety, but they were pretty ugly to look at. They had dry cracks up near the stem. But, on the inside is what counts and the Brandywines have it where it counts. They had almost no empty space inside them. They were so thick they were almost too juicy for use on BLTs. They were best sliced up into wedges with just a touch of salt.

The first thing people notice about the Brandwine is that it has leaves that look more like the leaves on a potato plant than a tomato. These plants are hardy and aggressive growers that quickly become too large for the standard tomato cage. Last year, I used wire fence cages that were too constrictive. I think we would have had even more fruit with less constricted cages. So, this year, I’m trying my hand at building custom lattice around the Brandywines. Being still early summer, there aren’t any tomatoes on the vines, yet.  But, all the little yellow flowers will hopefully eventually be hefty one-to-two-pound pink tomatoes. I’ve learned to use words like “hopefully” and “eventually” because when it comes down to it, Mother Nature decides what we’re going to get. In fact, we just had a nasty thunderstorm this past Saturday night that did its best to knock everything down.

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From The Desk Of Glenn Morrow: Resident Alien’s “Ooh The Doo Dew Man”

Glenn Morrow is a Hoboken, N.J., music treasure. He owns the influential 31-year-old Bar/None label (Yo La Tengo, They Might Be Giants, Feelies, dB’s, Of Montreal). His bands, such as the Individuals and “a,” have helped put the Mile Square City on the indie-rock map for equally as long. His latest project is Glenn Morrow’s Cry For Help, which has a new self-titled album. Morrow will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Morrow: Sometime in the ‘90s I became the proud owner of a promotional one-song cassette for a rap group called Resident Alien. The song “Ooh The Dew Doo Man” was an instant gonzo classic. It reminded me of TMBG, Todd Rundgren’s goofier wizard moments and De la Soul—but really, it was its own thing. I eagerly awaited an album that never came. Some sleuthing uncovered the fact that Prince Paul was involved. Many years later I got to have a meeting with him regarding something to do with the TV show Adult Swim. It’s all a little fuzzy now, but I asked him about Resident Alien and he told me there was whole album that never came out because a record deal had gone south. He kindly mailed me a CD-R of the album because I was so enthusiastic. So I was surprised to find this video on YouTube. “The Dew Doo Man” lives!

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Glenn Morrow: Ellie Greenwich “You Don’t Know” And Gene Chandler “Rainbow 65”

Glenn Morrow is a Hoboken, N.J., music treasure. He owns the influential 31-year-old Bar/None label (Yo La Tengo, They Might Be Giants, Feelies, dB’s, Of Montreal). His bands, such as the Individuals and “a,” have helped put the Mile Square City on the indie-rock map for equally as long. His latest project is Glenn Morrow’s Cry For Help, which has a new self-titled album. Morrow will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Morrow: NY Rocker was the office/clubhouse/rehearsal space for many people I am friends with to this day. It was started by Alan Betrock, then sold to, and operated for much of its duration by, Andy Schwartz. Alan hung around the office on occasion after he sold the business to start Shake Records (funding the first album by the dBs and other discs). He loved music from the 1960s, especially girl-group music on which he was an authority with a massive singles collection. One day I was hanging at his apartment scoring a cassette mix tape of Brian Wilson productions and Beach Boy rarities like “Guess I’m Dumb” by Glen Campbell and “You’re Welcome,” the b-Side to “Heroes And Villains” 45. (Second mention of Glen Campbell!)

“You want to hear my favorite girl group song?” he asked me before slipping on “You Don’t Know” by Ellie Greenwich. 30-plus years after hearing it for the first time I’m still knocked out by the recording. Brilliant Spector-like production but far sparer with a hint of the Shangrilas. It’s the tale of a teenage love triangle—a love that dare not speak its name—except through song. This YouTube clip adds a level of the surreal when the song is coupled with footage from Disney’s “The Gnome-Mobile.”

And while I’m talking about NY Rocker, I want to thank Andy Schwartz for giving me my start as well as turning me on to this performance by Gene Chandler … May the hair stand up on the back of your neck …

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From The Desk Of Glenn Morrow: Rachel Cusk

Glenn Morrow is a Hoboken, N.J., music treasure. He owns the influential 31-year-old Bar/None label (Yo La Tengo, They Might Be Giants, Feelies, dB’s, Of Montreal). His bands, such as the Individuals and “a,” have helped put the Mile Square City on the indie-rock map for equally as long. His latest project is Glenn Morrow’s Cry For Help, which has a new self-titled album. Morrow will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Morrow: Literary circles have been chattering since the beginning of the year about English novelist/writer Rachel Cusk and her radical first two novels of a trilogy, Outline (2014) and Transit (2017). The novels are spare with the somewhat revolutionary technique of removing most traces of the narrator while still writing from the narrator’s perspective. This means we have a sense of the person telling the story through the people she interacts with. These books feature prose stripped to the bone where all the writing is vital, to the point and absolutely courageous. It’s refreshing to have a writer take an experimental approach that is so disciplined in it’s execution. As remarkable as these books are, her earlier work ain’t bad either (eight titles in all). If you like the first two parts of the trilogy and can’t wait until the release of the third, go back and check out The Lucky Ones. She is one of our most vital living authors doing the heavy lifting for all of us.

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From The Desk Of Glenn Morrow: Robert Palmer’s “Deep Blues”

Glenn Morrow is a Hoboken, N.J., music treasure. He owns the influential 31-year-old Bar/None label (Yo La Tengo, They Might Be Giants, Feelies, dB’s, Of Montreal). His bands, such as the Individuals and “a,” have helped put the Mile Square City on the indie-rock map for equally as long. His latest project is Glenn Morrow’s Cry For Help, which has a new self-titled album. Morrow will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Morrow: It was really interesting re-visiting Robert Palmer’s Deep Blues a couple of years ago. The late great writer wrote music criticism for the New York Times in the 1980s. Prior to that in the late ’60s, he was part of the Insect Trust, an eclectic rock group based in Hoboken. I first read the book when I was 25 but now, with Spotify and YouTube, I can locate the music for which, back in 1981, I would have had to travel through the South in search of old 78s or at the very least, I would’ve had to spend hours in the Lincoln Center Library of the Performing Arts. Now it’s all at our fingertips. Palmer wrote about a boogie piano style called “the Forty Fours” that was used to test the chops of juke-joint players. One of the architects of that style was Brother Montgomery. His song “Vicksburg Blues” from 1930 in turn led me to the electric Chicago blues of Howlin’ Wolf, who cooked up a version called “Forty Four” based on Roosevelt Sykes’ interpretation of the same blues pattern. I borrowed from these sources and more to come up with my own take about a spurned lover packing heat while walking the streets of a small town. Suffice to say he’s an unreliable narrator.

Videos after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Glenn Morrow: The Kinks In Florida, 1972

Glenn Morrow is a Hoboken, N.J., music treasure. He owns the influential 31-year-old Bar/None label (Yo La Tengo, They Might Be Giants, Feelies, dB’s, Of Montreal). His bands, such as the Individuals and “a,” have helped put the Mile Square City on the indie-rock map for equally as long. His latest project is Glenn Morrow’s Cry For Help, which has a new self-titled album. Morrow will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Morrow: One winter’s day when I was 15 years old I told my mom I was going out to make some money shoveling snow. Unbeknownst to her, I was actually jumping on a train to Florida with my friend C. All these years later I’m glad to be alive and grateful my own kids never pulled a stunt like that. On our last night there, we were hitchhiking back to Tampa to catch a train home and a van full of hippies picked us up. “You going to the concert?” they asked. Of course. We ended up in an old armory to see Dion, Fairport Convention and the Kinks. Fairport Convention no longer had Richard Thompson, Dion was working his folkie phase as a sensitive solo act, but the Kinks were a revelation. They came out in matching outfits and skinny ties and launched into a bunch of old classics. Then they came back in appropriate ’70s attire and launched into all manner of Kinkdom. I was a devoted Kinks fan from that point on. Through the miracle of Set List FM, I recently discovered they were playing Fort Homer Hesterly Armory, Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 25, 1972. Nobody remembers much about the songs they played that night, but if this show in Buffalo a few nights later was similar, it was quite a night. Needless to say I was grounded when I got home.

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From The Desk Of Glenn Morrow: Vinyl Wife

Glenn Morrow is a Hoboken, N.J., music treasure. He owns the influential 31-year-old Bar/None label (Yo La Tengo, They Might Be Giants, Feelies, dB’s, Of Montreal). His bands, such as the Individuals and “a,” have helped put the Mile Square City on the indie-rock map for equally as long. His latest project is Glenn Morrow’s Cry For Help, which has a new self-titled album. Morrow will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Morrow: Lots of people post pictures from their album collections, but no one does it quite like the Vinyl Wife. Sonja is a married mom living in Finland. While she leans a little to the prog and metal sides of things, there’s plenty of classic rock and some Nordic rarities. Indie rock has yet to make it to her shores it seems. Occasionally she breaks it up with something like the Kamasi Washington triple-disc set. What sets her apart from other vinyl enthusiasts is the way she puts a spin on her collecting—she’s a pin-up for the needle droppers, interacting in a playful way with her many album jackets. Still waiting to see what she’ll do with that original Blind Faith album cover.

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From The Desk Of Glenn Morrow: Almost Famous Moment, 1973 (Todd Rundgren And Utopia)

Glenn Morrow is a Hoboken, N.J., music treasure. He owns the influential 31-year-old Bar/None label (Yo La Tengo, They Might Be Giants, Feelies, dB’s, Of Montreal). His bands, such as the Individuals and “a,” have helped put the Mile Square City on the indie-rock map for equally as long. His latest project is Glenn Morrow’s Cry For Help, which has a new self-titled album. Morrow will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Morrow: My first brush with the music biz went like this: I went to a Todd Rundgren concert at a Jersey college in the middle of winter. As I was sitting in my mom’s Plymouth station wagon waiting for the doors to open, there was a knock on the window. This sophisticated girl in a long black dress with billows of curly hair told me she was a friend of Todd’s. She said she was waiting to get in herself and could she sit with me in my car? She was training to be a sound engineer at Secret Sound Studios. I knew that place from Todd’s album covers. In a matter of moments, she was laying all kinds of insider info on me. She’d been Moogy Klingman’s girlfriend, but he’d thrown her over and refused to put her on the guest list! Could I talk to the stage manager? His name was Rocket (or something like that); all I had to do was go to the stage, ask for him and tell him “_____” was outside. Moogy was so mean and Todd was the greatest and was encouraging of her interest in engineering. We talked about different albums. She told me the new stuff was really different—Utopia was sort of like Mahivisnu Orchestra! The album was just about to come out.

Looking back now from a more knowing vantage point I feel for this woman—stuck in a world that, to this day, is dominated by men. She had a Max’s Kansas City hipster look. I remember thinking she looked like Miss Christine on the liner sleeve of the Runt album with a shag haircut and diaphanous black dress. I went in and found “Rocket”—he rolled his eyes a little but let her in. She thanked me profusely. Even now, I still wonder: Did she become a recording engineer or was it too impossible to break into that world? That must have been a heady crew to be mixed up with. You can imagine what it was like for a woman at that time that wanted to be seen as an equal. Anybody know who she might be or what happened to her?

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From The Desk Of Glenn Morrow: Jackie DeShannon’s “Everytime You Walk In The Room”

Glenn Morrow is a Hoboken, N.J., music treasure. He owns the influential 31-year-old Bar/None label (Yo La Tengo, They Might Be Giants, Feelies, dB’s, Of Montreal). His bands, such as the Individuals and “a,” have helped put the Mile Square City on the indie-rock map for equally as long. His latest project is Glenn Morrow’s Cry For Help, which has a new self-titled album. Morrow will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Morrow: Speaking of Boo & Elena, they’ve been running a series of benefits at Guitar Bar Jr. for various causes. Glenn Morrow’s Cry For Help played one for Planned Parenthood recently, and we worked up a version of “When You Walk In The Room,” written and originally recorded by Jackie DeShannon. I read somewhere that her version came out in 1963 on the heels of the success she had covering Sonny Bono’s “Needles And Pins.” I suddenly realized the distinctive 12-string guitar part pre-dated both the Beatles and the Byrds, forays into similar territory (think “Daytripper” and “Turn Turn Turn”). A little research turned up an interview where Jackie says she wrote the lick but got Glen Campbell to play it on the session. I’d say that was the birth of folk rock right there. Let there be jangle.

Video after the jump.

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