Song of the Week: “Sex Bomb” by Flipper

by Douglas Cowie on 29 July 2016

Each Friday I pick a song–new, old, borrowed, blue–that’s been on my mind and in my ears, and write a short post about it.

This is “Sex Bomb” by Flipper:

Are you thinking about starting a punk or rock ‘n’ roll band of any kind?  Here’s your starting point: “Sex Bomb” by Flipper.  There’s one line of lyrics to learn. There’s one pretty simple and very fun riff to learn. It doesn’t matter–as Flipper amply demonstrates–how tight or sloppy you play it.  You can keep playing it, if you want to, for hours. Play and play and play and play. You’ll have a great time. Take turns yelling “Sex Bomb, baby, yeah!” Keep playing.  It’s basically a jam band song for people who hate jam bands. Keep cranking away on it and you’ll develop just enough chops to play in a punk band, and you’ll be having a stupid good time while you’re doing it. Yeah!

I was reminded of Flipper, and of “Sex Bomb” specifically, for the first time in a while this week while reading a book about Yo La Tengo, Big Day Coming by Jesse Jarnow. I loved the book, partly because I love Yo La Tengo, though mainly because it’s a smart, thoughtful, enthusiastic, and loving account not just of a band, but of a particular musical era (the rise, from punk, of “indie rock,” 1980s-2000s) and place (Hoboken, NJ).  Jarnow is a dj at WFMU, the (legendary? famous?) New Jersey-based independent freeform radio station (basically, a college radio station without a college), and the book tells not only the story of Yo La Tengo, but also the (entirely related) story of WFMU, as well as the story of the rise of American “indie” rock, too. If you’re at all interested in Yo La Tengo, it’s a book well worth buying (follow the link embedded in the title, or go to a bookshop and order it) and reading (open to page 1, start at the top left). Now go get a drum and a guitar and a bass and whatever else you want, and start playing “Sex Bomb”.

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Song of the Week: “Frankie Teardrop” by Suicide

by Douglas Cowie on 22 July 2016

Each Friday I pick a song–new, old, borrowed, blue–that’s been on my mind and in my ears, and write a short post about it.

This is “Frankie Teardrop” by Suicide:

I first encountered Suicide through the song “Cheree” on a New York punk compilation CD I picked up sometime in the 1990s.  Later, I bought Suicide, the 1977 album on which “Frankie Teardrop” appears. It’s relentless listening, and it’s not an album I listen to often, for that reason.  On the other hand, it is excellent, and pretty unlike anything that came before it.  Here’s a thoughtful tribute to Alan Vega, one half of Suicide, from The Guardian. Alan Vega died, aged 78, last Saturday.

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Each Friday I pick a song–new, old, borrowed, blue–that’s been on my mind and in my ears, and write a short post about it.

This is “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister:

I first heard this song on Toronto’s CHUM-FM in 1984. My seven years-old ears had never heard anything like it, and the song excited me a whole lot.  When I listen to it now, I can hear how derivative it is, of Alice Cooper, of the New York Dolls, of the Sex Pistols (themselves derivative of the New York Dolls), among others. I can also see that Twister Sister don’t care about that: they’re having a good time, making pop music with a big guitar sound, and they’re not taking themselves all too seriously.  But being a cartoonish frontman of a cartoonish band doesn’t mean you’re not a thoughtful human being, and Dee Snider also wrote a self-help book for teenagers, which I’ve always admired him for.  The thing about Twisted Sister in my personal story of music is that they opened my ears, at a very (too?!) young age to a very different sound; they were basically my gateway band to the punk rock in all its various forms that I still love today.  And I also can’t listen to “We’re Not Gonna Take It” without remembering being in the basement at the Mooney’s house, playing with all the kids while our parents had a dinner party upstairs, listening to CHUM-FM and hearing this song, and having my mind blown open by something new.

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Each Friday I pick a song–new, old, borrowed, blue–that’s been on my mind and in my ears, and write a short post about it.

This is “Living for the City” by Ramsey Lewis & Band:

What do you do when you take on one of Stevie Wonder’s best and most famous songs? For three minutes you play it pretty straight, piano following the vocal line of the original, doing some nice loud-quiet-loud (like Ramsey Lewis had been listening to the Pixies in 1990, too? probably not, but maybe, but nah, but still).  Then you bring out the jazz and let rip.  Here’s another of his versions; Ramsey Lewis plays an electric piano on this one and his a bit more of a soul-disco feel to it.

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