Category Archives: RECORD REVIEWS

Record Review: Anders Parker “There’s A Bluebird In My Heart”


Anders Parker flexes all of his considerable creative muscles with his latest—and perhaps best—solo album.

Looking back over the breadth of Anders Parker’s two-decade career, there is little he has yet to accomplish or prove. The stylistic range encompassed by his Varnaline work alone is evidence of Parker’s determination to explore, illuminate, absorb and transcend every musical influence he’s experienced, from alt-country and raw folk to pastoral Americana and baroque art rock. And Parker’s catalog under his own name has been equally diverse, be it the transitional familiarity of 2004’s Tell It To The Dust or the ambient instrumental guitar wash of 2010’s Cross Latitudes. Throw in his recent pairing with Mascott/Sparklehorse multi-instrumentalist and longtime cohort Kendall Meade, and you’ve got an impressive and intimidating curriculum vitae.

Parker’s latest contribution is a welcome return to his Varnaline/early-solo sound, perhaps in reaction to his recent experimental streak. Opener “The Road” is a visceral eight-minute core sample of Parker’s most closely held inspirations, starting in a soulful pop vein and careening to a blistering Crazy Horse conclusion, while “Animals” cross-pollinates Parker’s Youngian love of twang bar blues with a stomp-and-holler ethic that could be mistaken for Jack White. Parker is equally comfortable with the kind of quiet intensity that can be as unnerving as it is soothing (“Unspoken,” “Don’t Let The Darkness In”), then counterpoints it with the epic and nearly prog-paced roar of the exquisitely titled “Jackbooted Thugs (Have All The Best Drugs).” After several years of wandering in the sonic wilderness, Parker has returned to his roots with a velvet-fisted vengeance.

—Brian Baker

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The Flaming Lips Almost Killed Me: Reign Of Terror


Will repeated listening to the Flaming Lips‘ dark, depressing and intense new album drive you insane? MAGNET’s Matthew Fritch aims to find out. Welcome to the Terrordome.

As should be obvious by the gaping chasm between posts in this purportedly regular series, The Terror is over (if you want it). Reviewing The Terror for weeks on end didn’t exactly kill my enthusiasm for the album, but it didn’t intensify it, either. Being on the receding limb of musical enjoyment isn’t much fun; it was time to put the Flaming Lips away for a while. Besides, there’s a new Bill Callahan album to obsess over—that guy has been killing it for the last four LPs, by the way.

In my first post, I promised a hastily conceived infographic, and I will keep that promise. The visual interpretation of “You Lust” below is not only hastily conceived but also poorly executed. There’s not even a legend or key, so just know that this maps out every time the jarring “lust to succeed” sequence happens (represented by the Swami head) and highlights that long middle section where I forget what happens.


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Record Review: Nirvana “In Utero (20th Anniversary Edition)”


Twenty years later, In Utero reigns as Nirvana’s poetic, grimy apex

It’s always the question with Nirvana, the most important band in the history of alternative rock save for only possibly the Velvet Underground: What’s left to say? Now documented and immortalized with its third boxed set, the band’s studio swan song was the ultimate follow-up, with Steve Albini on hand to destroy the pop goodwill Nevermind’s runaway success imbued the trio with for David Geffen, and such agreeable titles as “Rape Me” and “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” to greet program directors previously besotted with “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” We know In Utero turned out to be anything but poisonous commercially, with the string of “Heart-Shaped Box,” “All Apologies” and “Dumb” ensuring this wasn’t the Bad to Nevermind’s Thriller.

On In Utero, Kurt Cobain’s lyrics opened up like never before, nearly as poetry when he sang of a “Leonard Cohen afterworld” or an “umbilical noose,” but also developing his keen obsession with femininity, from themes of childbirth and the female anatomy (“Pennyroyal Tea” was selected as a subject for its assistance in inducing abortion) that extended to the famous album artwork, as well as bringing Cobain’s feminism to the forefront. (“Rape Me” was a chilling protest, a martyr plea from a privileged white male to unload some of the burden of women’s collective fear and pain.)

What this two-decades-on look back opens up is not how abrasive the album was, but rather how subtly its melodic foundation supported its thrashy intentions, especially on the “Live And Loud” disc from a 1993 concert that showcased new vistas in the backing harmonies of “Sliver” and “Pennyroyal Tea” and eschewed album thrashers like “Very Ape” and “Tourette’s” in favor of an earlier, electric take on Bowie’s delicate “The Man Who Sold The World” before the definitive Unplugged performance, veering pop-friendly on typical selections like “Drain You” and “About A Girl,” and only going off the grid for the brutal bookends of “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” and blinding mess “Endless, Nameless.” The well-known b-sides now collected in one place (“Moist Vagina,” “Sappy,” “I Hate Myself And Want To Die” and Dave Grohl’s “Marigold”) comprise a strong EP with completely unreleased, surfy jam “Forgotten Tune”; only the debris-like “Gallons Of Rubbing Alcohol Flowing Through The Strip” fails to create a context for itself.

Then you have alternate mixes that grow confusing, from Albini and Scott Litt’s original treatments of tunes that now have alternate choices, to mysterious “2013” mixes meant to simulate something not very distinct from the finished album at all, to the decidedly un-illuminating LP demos (unless you really need to know how much distortion was originally called upon for “Scentless Apprentice”). Diehards and students of audio recording will certainly be able to identify the here-and-there tidbits of difference between these warehouse-cleaning takes. Since most people can make do with the excellent new live set, and it only comes with the triple-disc option, spring for the separate DVD. The album proper already excellently spoke for itself 20 years ago.

—Dan Weiss

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The Flaming Lips Almost Killed Me: Is It Gettin’ Heady?


Will repeated listening to the Flaming Lips‘ dark, depressing and intense new album drive you insane? MAGNET’s Matthew Fritch aims to find out. Welcome to the Terrordome.

In the previous post, I interrogated Jonathan Valania, the author of MAGNET’s recent Flaming Lips cover story, and discovered, well, more about myself than about Wayne Coyne or The Terror or the location of Michael Ivins’ missing sunglasses. A brief aside about the Wilco comparison in that entry: I nearly forgot that, when Yankee Hotel Foxtrot came out and the documentary I Am Trying To Break Your Heart revealed the deep rift between Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett, I had a crackpot theory that the album’s call-sign abbreviation, YHF, translated when spoken aloud to “Why I Hate Jeff.” Maybe Bennett knew his days with Wilco were numbered. Maybe he didn’t even come up with the title.

These are the odd scenarios you concoct when an album becomes part of your life. Last month, I spent an evening with Quentin Stoltzfus, ostensibly interviewing him about his new band (Light Heat, whose excellent album just came out*) but often talking about other bands, albums, the Philly psych-rock scene circa 1999 and what he called “deep listening.” We fought like hell not to let the conversation devolve into a kids-these-days lament about short attention spans and the internet, but Quentin shared two things that speak exactly to that theme. One is an anecdote about a night featuring repeated playing of a Stereolab/Nurse With Wound split to a member of Fleet Foxes and blowing that dude’s mind. The other is that Quentin is friends with Alec Ounsworth; he helped him build his studio and engineered his solo album. He saw the furious internet attention paid to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah circa 2005, and then saw the relatively gross internet negligence to anything Alec or his band did exactly one year after that—even though the music was basically the same. It’s not like they made a radical change.

But guess who did? The Flaming Lips! And yet the Lips’ generation of fans—let’s be honest, even Wayne is going gray—has largely stuck with the band, or at least paid attention. Because there’s a history. A discography. Parts of it that I despise. Parts that I don’t even know (yet). Parts that I spent my money from an after-school job on in 1993 and was nearly tethered to.

Next time we’ll get back into, y’know, the actual songs on The Terror. In other Terror-related news, here’s a new interview with Wayne Coyne; some very good insight into the track “Try To Explain” toward the end of the piece.

*Light Heat is basically Quentin Stoltzfus (whose former incarnation, Mazarin, made him the prince of Philly psych-rock) plus the Walkmen. It is unfair to other bands that this fortuitous pairing was allowed to occur, and the resulting album sounds like JAMC’s Darklands, the Velvet Underground and, well, Mazarin and the Walkmen.

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The Flaming Lips Almost Killed Me: Jesus Shootin’ Heroin, Etc.


Will repeated listening to the Flaming Lips‘ dark, depressing and intense new album drive you insane? MAGNET’s Matthew Fritch aims to find out. Welcome to the Terrordome.

You can only navelgaze about an album for so long. Turns out I actually know someone who went to the source of The Terror, so I decided to ask him about it. Jonathan Valania interviewed Wayne Coyne at his Oklahoma City compound for MAGNET #98’s cover story; he also did a MAGNET cover story on the Lips circa The Soft Bulletin.

A short preface to this Q&A: I have a little theory that The Terror is heavily influenced by drummer Steven Drozd’s drug-addiction relapse, and that it is akin to the influence that Jay Bennett had on the recording of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Maybe there was a little bit of chemical dependence going on, maybe it drove some of the darker, more experimental tendencies. Seeing as how Valania also spent time with Wilco circa Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, I decided to float this theory by him as well.

The cover story you wrote—when it came time to discuss The Terror, you told Wayne Coyne, “I like it, but I’m not sure anyone else will.” Sounds like faint praise. What do you really think of the album?
Valania: I like it for what it is. A return to the bad-trip psychedelia of yore, but much more skilled and accomplished. It asks a lot of the listener: a) That you listen to it beginning to end because it doesn’t really work in small doses, and b) that the listener wallow in the album’s unrelenting bleakness. Both of which are a big ask in these times of fractured attention spans and unrelenting bleakness that most people turn to music to forget about.

Things got pretty emotional with Wayne toward the end of the piece, when he’s talking about the psychic. Outside of what you already wrote, what were your impressions of Wayne’s state of mind during the time you spent with him? Do you think The Terror is manufactured gloom, or do you think it’s real?
He was charming and witty and friendly and funny as per usual, but there is obviously some deep well of sadness that broke to the surface when he was relating the psychic experience. I got the sense that he is pretty raw emotionally these days. And no, I don’t think the album’s gloom is manufactured; I think it comes from an honest place.

I’m too lazy to read the whole article again, but did you discuss Steven Drozd’s relapse and what effect that might have had on the album’s mood? I have a theory that is basically Drozd: The Terror::Jay Bennett: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. There’s just the same kind of change of dynamic that happened with Wilco, where two guys converge on an experiment in the midst of grief or addiction or whatever.
Not so sure about that. Best I can tell, Drozd has been pretty much writing/performing all the music on Lips albums, except bass, since Ronald left after Clouds Taste Metallic. I think Bennett played a hugely important role in the greatness of Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but by the end nobody in the band, especially Tweedy, could stomach his presence. I don’t think those interpersonal issues apply with the Flaming Lips. As for Drozd’s relapse impacting the album, I learned the hard way that you can’t expect an addict to tell a relative stranger the truth about their addiction. When I did the first Lips cover story around the time of The Soft Bulletin, Drozd assured me he had kicked heroin. After the fact, I came to learn that wasn’t true. So I didn’t even want to go there this time and instead focused on Wayne.

You did a Lips cover story circa The Soft Bulletin as well. What’s the biggest difference you could sense in the band between then and now?
This time around, I didn’t have any interaction with anybody in the band outside of Wayne, so I couldn’t really say. However, it is clear that Wayne enjoys being Wayne, which is good because nobody does it better. He was built for rock stardom and had it not arrived after years and years of hard work, he’d still be manning the fryer at Long John Silver’s (which has long since been converted to a Pho, by the way).

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The Flaming Lips Almost Killed Me: At War With The Critics


Will repeated listening to the Flaming Lips‘ dark, depressing and intense new album drive you insane? MAGNET’s Matthew Fritch aims to find out. Welcome to the Terrordome.

Anyone read anything about the new Daft Punk album? What? My sarcasm is tiresome and strained; it both mocks and plays into the future that Daft Punk is already reflecting back at us? Fucking robots. Let’s talk about the Flaming Lips.

Specifically, let’s talk about what other people have talked about when they’ve talked about The Terror. There are two routes here; surveying the entire internet (or just Amazon, where The Terror racks up 3.5 stars in its customer reviews section and makes me question why Consumer Reports doesn’t hire Anthony Lane and Robert Christgau to pen narrative reviews of toasters and microwaves) or choosing your battle. I choose, Iron Chef kitchen stadium style, to battle Jim DeRogatis’ review: “The Flaming Lips Drop A Depressing And Dismal Dud.”

DeRogatis has more cachet than you or me where the Flaming Lips are concerned. That he wrote a biography of the band entitles him to the vantage point he describes in the first half of the review. If you want ad hominem attacks, proceed directly to the comments section—you won’t find them here. DeRogatis’ actual criticism of The Terror is mainly twofold, asserting that: a) the Flaming Lips are not trying hard enough, and b) the theme and tone of the record are insincere and gimmicky.

Maybe there’s no arguing with the first point, as a matter of taste. I don’t know what specific lack of effort DeRogatis is referring to, but plenty of krautrock bands have stretched a monorhythm over eight or nine minutes and avoided being called lazy. And there are new adventures here; Wayne Coyne sings almost the entire album in a falsetto. There is a weird electronic-rock melancholy reminiscent of Air circa 10000 Hz Legend and the Virgin Suicides score. When the guitars get brittle and white-noisy, you can hear a little bit of Flying Saucer Attack. Nobody disparages Flying Saucer Attack, do they?

As for the second argument—that the album’s downer-ism is not genuine—well, that’s a dubious sentiment (or simply a misplaced one if you believe, as I do, that the Yoshimi/At War With The Mystics/Christmas On Mars-era Lips is mostly a farce). I didn’t watch the Super Bowl, so I don’t know what corporate chariot the latest Flaming Lips album flew in on. It’d surprise me if any of these songs got anywhere near the Super Bowl. Coyne’s wife of 25 years left him. Drummer Steven Drozd was, by his own account, going through a drug addiction relapse. Bassist Michael Ivins lost his prescription sunglasses at an Applebee’s in Lawton. The Terror sounds like a reckoning of those events, cycling through the requisite disbelief (“Try To Explain”), sadness (“You Are Alone”) and anger (“Turning Violent”). If that doesn’t come across as “real” enough—a valid question in Daft Punk’s world—then DeRogatis is picking and choosing which parts of the Flaming Lips discography he wants to believe.

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The Flaming Lips Almost Killed Me: Gawd Only Knows


Will repeated listening to the Flaming Lips‘ dark, depressing and intense new album drive you insane? MAGNET’s Matthew Fritch aims to find out. Welcome to the Terrordome.

If I were Wayne Coyne—and I am definitely not Wayne Coyne, because he would use a better pseudonym—I would begin this post with 40 seconds of synthesizer drone. That’s a joke for those of you who have heard The Terror, the 13th album by the Flaming Lips. The Terror is the subject of about as much controversy as can be stirred up by a rock album these days, which is to say that it is a stylistic left turn by a known artistic quantity, and some people don’t like it one bit.

Here’s the situation: A well-liked, seemingly well-adjusted band that had lately become known for its lysergic sense of joy and outright gimmickry (the bunny suits, the plastic bubbles, the movie about Christmas on Mars) releases an endless bummer of an album—it is dark, and somewhat experimental, and we’ll have plenty of time to dissect it in the coming weeks. Upon first listen to the album last week, it is my opinion that it’s the greatest thing the Flaming Lips have done in years; possibly better than 1999’s The Soft Bulletin and far removed from the band’s shiny-happy pop of the 2000s. I immediately knew I’d become obsessed with The Terror, similar to the way I knew I’d be spending a lot of time with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or Sister Lovers or Alligator the first time those albums graced the CD player or iPod or whatever.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not hear The Terror for the first time in its entirety. Who does that? I typed “flaming lips the terror full album” into the YouTube search box and said a little prayer. It wasn’t successful (believe me, plenty of other old and new albums are there for the free listening), but it did turn up two album tracks, “Turning Violent” and “Try To Explain.” Here is the former:

YouTube Preview Image

I listened to each song three times to make sure I didn’t repeat what I now refer to as The Foxygen Incident. That occurred a couple months ago when I made an impulse iTunes purchase of the entire Foxygen album after hearing “San Francisco.” Aside from that song, fucking Foxygen fucking sucks. Anyway, I looked at the deluxe iTunes version of The Terror for $2 more, felt cheap and decided I didn’t need the pair of bonus tracks. I’m down $9.99, and I’m going to get my money’s worth.

I don’t know what this series of weekly posts is going to be like, or how long it will take. I hope I don’t kill the thing that I (currently) love. We’re going to do some deep listening. We’re going to talk about the Jim DeRogatis review. We’re going to find out why Jonathan Valania didn’t write more about the album in the MAGNET cover story on the Flaming Lips, and why he was kind of evasive when Coyne asked his opinion of it. There will be a hastily conceived infographic. This exercise is self-indulgent and indulgent in other ways, too. Let’s see what happens when you review an album for a few months.

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Record Review: R.E.M. “Document (25th Anniversary Edition)”

You know what says “timeless classic”? Twenty-five years of hearing cringe-inducing covers and still getting chills up your spine when you hear the originals. We’ve had to listen to coffee-shop twits, karaoke hacks and turd-peddling cover bands butcher Document’s signature hits for as long we can remember. If we had a dollar for every dingleberry who flubbed the lyrics to “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” we’d be sitting on a pile of Pez dispensers and boat shoes so big you could see it from space. If we hear another cornball First Name Last Name mumble-mouth their way through “The One I Love,” we might have to unleash some Old Testament-style fury.

It’s ugly. But not ugly enough to dull the brilliance of Document, even after a quarter-century of awfulness-by-association. Yes, the singles have been driven into the ground by unimaginative radio playlists and clueless open-mic attendees, but the deep cuts are what made this a winner in the first place. The menace of “Oddfellows Local 151,” the swagger of “Strange,” the political pop-hooks of “Exhuming McCarthy”—these are the things that make for a truly phenomenal album. Round it out with Appalachian ragga “King Of Birds,” jangle anthem “Disturbance At The Heron House” and, of course, “Finest Worksong,” and you’ve got one of the most timeless of all classics. Just don’t cover the singles; that’s all we ask. Plus there’s a classic cassette-era bootleg from the band’s 1987 European tour—arguably R.E.M. at its peak—as a reminder that these guys were one of the most dynamic live outfits to emerge from Reagan’s America.

—Sean L. Maloney

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Record Review: Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers “Mojo”

MojoTom Petty has said of Wildflowers, the 1994 solo album he cut with Rick Rubin that is arguably the high water mark of his 34 years of record making, that he spent two years trying to make it sound like the album was done in a weekend. No such shell game with Mojo, Petty’s latest album with the Heartbreakers and first since 2002’s The Last DJ. Each of the album’s 15 tracks was recorded in a day (liner notes tell you exactly what day), with the band playing together live and Petty singing along, all straight to tape. A couple of minor overdubs aside, you’re hearing it pretty much how it went down in their tricked-out rehearsal space. (This from a band that very likely spent an entire day dicking around with producer Jimmy Iovine and engineer Shelly Yakus to achieve that fat snare-drum sound on Damn The Torpedoes.) Of course, the pace at which an album’s songs are recorded isn’t a mark of quality. But the urgency and manner with which Petty and the Heartbreakers laid down these tunes goes a long way toward defining what Mojo is—just as much as the album’s blues/R&B/roots-steeped tenor.

Mojo is certainly not the jangling Heartbreakers that put their songs over with harmonies and pop sensibilities learned from the Beatles and Byrds. There’s nary a harmony vocal or anything resembling a classic Petty hook on the record. This is something different. It’s extremely skilled spontaneity. Something Petty has surely been trying to bring out of the Heartbreakers on record for a long time, perhaps as far back as when they were walking a tightrope nightly behind Bob Dylan in the ’80s. And now, grizzled vets of almost 60, unencumbered by commercial concerns, completely able to write their own ticket knowing they’ll never play to a half-empty house, Petty and his crew have gone and made that record.

Throughout Mojo, Petty frequently channels the laid-back, low-maintenance vibe of Mudcrutch, his swampy early-’70s band with original Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench that he reformed for a great album and short tour in 2008. He does it best in a mellow gem of a road song called “The Trip To Pirate’s Cove,” which drifts along on Tench’s “Riders On The Storm”-like electric-piano part and Petty’s succinct character distillations (“She was a part of my heart/Now she’s just a line in my face”). If “Runnin’ Down A Dream” was a highway jam meant for the interstate, “Pirate’s Cove” is built for a lazy nighttime cruise on the Pacific Coast Highway. Even when they’re playing slow, lurching Chicago blues, like on “Takin’ My Time,” the Heartbreakers’ role on Mojo comes across as anything but laid-back. Last year’s Live Anthology boxed set showcased them as a versatile and accomplished combo. True players that bring the best out of Petty’s songs, especially live. And in Mojo’s basically live setting, they shine. They’re applying what they learned playing four sets a night 40 years ago, working out all the knowledge gleaned from those Mike Bloomfield, Yardbirds and J.J. Cale records.

And did I mention Mojo is an electrifying showcase for Campbell’s lead guitar, quite possibly the most under-appreciated commodity in the history of rock ‘n’ roll? There’s a precision and depth to his playing that you might not expect to find on a record made in such a hit-it-and-quit-it fashion. One of Mojo‘s standout tracks, “Running Man’s Bible,” smolders on the strength of Campbell’s responses to Petty’s declarations of survival (“I took on my father and I’m still walking/Took on all comers in some shape or form”). Sometimes his responses take the form of rapid-fire licks, other times muted bursts of quarter-notes. It never feels like too much or that it’s not enough. It’s the perfect compliment to a great song. The same can be said of Campbell’s playing on swirling, seven-minute jam “First Flash Of Freedom.” Over Steve Ferrone’s steady swing, Campbell wraps curly arpeggios and trippy runs around Petty’s woozy melody in a song that serves as a reminder that the band grew up just a few hours south of the Allman Brothers’ home turf in Macon, Ga.

These aforementioned tracks, along with loosey-goosey R&B numbers “Let Yourself Go” and “Candy,” account for Mojo’s best moments. That’s six songs. Four, maybe five, more tracks that come close to reaching those heights (the swirling blues of “Good Enough” and the delicate “Something Good Coming” would make my short list) would have amounted to an excellent album. Petty, though, felt compelled to make Mojo a 15-song album. So the record loses some of its, ahem, mojo in spots, bogged down by tracks that are more vibe than song (“I Should Have Known It,” “Lover’s Touch”) and fairly throwaway (“No Reason To Cry”). These slow spots aren’t enough to totally derail things; they’re just lulls. Because by reaching way back to their roots, by doing what they do best—playing as a band—and by making a record that sounds like no record they’ve made before, Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers have come up with their most vital record in years.

—Patrick Berkery

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DVD Review: Various Artists “The T.A.M.I. Show”

tamicoverblog1If you wanted to get straight to the heart of an exploding 1964 pop-music scene, you couldn’t do any better than The T.A.M.I. Show. (T.A.M.I. stands for Teenage Awards Music International.) The year that saw the British Invasion turn the U.S. pop charts upside-down also witnessed a thriving Motown contingent as well as the emergence of a happening L.A. phenomenon called surf music. And this nicely restored DVD, out today on Shout! Factory, captures every nuance of the era in pulse-pounding black and white.

With a lineup that included the Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, James Brown, Supremes, Leslie Gore, Chuck Berry, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and Marvin Gaye, the show was filmed live at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium by director Steve Binder on Oct. 29, 1964, before a mob of screaming young girls—and hosted by Tinseltown’s amiable surfer dudes, Jan Berry and Dean Torrence. Centuries from now, the entire experience should be easily fashion carbon-dated by scantily-clad go-go dancers wearing everything from early bellbottoms and boots to striped rugby shirts and bikinis that closely resembled ladies underwear, while doing the hully-gully, the frug, the swim and the monkey nonstop in the background (and foreground) of almost every shot.

Jan & Dean are shown calmly zipping through the streets of Los Angeles in the opening credits as their chart hit “(Here They Come) From All Over The World”—penned by Phil Sloan and Steve Barri—extols the international flavor of the headliners: “The king of the blues, soulful James Brown/The Beach Boys singing now ‘I Get Around.'” The Stones were so under-the-radar in ’64, the song’s lyrics mistakenly ID their home town: “Those bad-looking guys with the moppy long hair/The Rolling Stones from Liverpool have gotta be there.”

Chuck Berry kicks things off with scorching versions of “Johnny B. Goode,” “Maybellene” and “Memphis,” alternating with Brian Epstein’s other big ’64 group, Gerry & The Pacemakers, performing current smashes “How Do You Do It” and “It’s Gonna Be Alright.” With Gerry Marsden and Co. egged on by a houseful of teenage screamers, the punch-for-punch competition is not as one-sided as you might think. Pacemakers ballad “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” features brilliant Phil Spector arranger Jack Nitzsche conducting a pit band that must have featured most of Spector’s famed Wrecking Crew, including fabled session drummer Hal Blaine.

Long-lost footage of the stripe-shirted Beach Boys pounding out “Surfing U.S.A” to the tune of Berry’s “Sweet Little 16,” then breaking teenage hearts with Brian Wilson’s show-stopping ballad “Surfer Girl” (sung mostly out of one side of his mouth), is followed by their current hit, “Dance, Dance, Dance.” Dennis Wilson’s frantic drumming and flailing, dirty-blond hair was always as much a highlight of early Beach Boys shows as Carl Wilson’s rocking Berry-esque guitar leads.

In the middle of Jan & Dean singing their new one, “Sidewalk Surfing,” Torrence opens his guitar case, dumps his prototype solid-wood, ultra-short skateboard out on the floor and tools around onstage with the cat-like moves of a guy who’s done this plenty before.

Marvin Gaye absolutely shines belting out early hits “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow,” “Can I Get A Witness,” “Pride And Joy” and “Hitchhike,” while backed by vocal trio the Blossoms, led by Darlene Love, one of Spector’s studio mainstays, whether solo or fronting the Crystals.

The pride of Tenafly, N.J., Leslie Gore, with her expensive coif kept in place by at least two cans of hairspray, plays the downtrodden girlfriend to a tee with a brace of Quincy Jones-produced gems like “Maybe l Know” and “It’s My Party,” then lights a candle for women’s lib with her anthemic “You Don’t Own Me.”

Smokey Robinson looks so young here he appears to be the nephew of the three grizzled veterans who back him up as the Miracles. Neophyte though he may have been, Robinson knocks out “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” and “Mickey’s Monkey” with the class of a show-biz vet. Boston’s Barbarians, featuring caveman drummer Moulty, who lost one of his hands as a youngster, gives a glimpse of garage rock yet to come with a throbbing “Hey Little Bird.”

With hair piled high, the Supremes, in the days just before they’d be headlining a show like this, sound terrific, abetted by maestro Nitzsche’s orchestra, in compact outings of early hits “Where Did Our Love Go” and “Baby Love.”

Teen heart-throb Billy J. Kramer, backed by the Dakotas (yet another hitmaking British outfit from the Epstein stable), runs through a brief set of Lennon/McCartney penned gems (“From A Window,” “Bad To Me”) played so quickly you can catch the guitar player gulping at the bass player when they intentionally omit the second eight bars and head straight for the bridge of “I’ll Keep You Satisfied.”

James Brown And The Famous Flames, on the other hand, get plenty of time to let “Please, Please, Please” unspool at its own pace. Nattily attired in hound’s-tooth jacket with matching waistcoat, soul brother number one is in top form, especially on the dance floor, where he defies the laws of gravity while pirouetting with such gasp-inducing flair that he must have been the envy of Rudolf Nureyev.

A tough act to follow, and yet the babyfaced, moptopped Rolling Stones gladly accept the challenge. With 45 years of hindsight, it’s hard to believe these peach-fuzzed boys are the same weathered old codgers still out there on the road. Of course, this is before the Stones really caught fire stateside in early ’65 with “The Last Time” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” So, the set consisted of solid early material like “Around And Around,” “Time Is On My Side,” “It’s All Right” and “It’s All Over Now,” about to become their first U.S. top-10 smash. Rhythm guitarist Brian Jones already shows signs of bags under his eyes, but Keith Richards looks like he’s just finished his paper route. And pouty-lipped, maracas-wielding Mick Jagger is already fab-gear enough to make an SRO crowd of ecstatic teenage girls experience things they’ve never felt before.

Video after the jump.

—Jud Cost

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