Friday, April 27, 2007

TMQ Zine Archive Launched!

Never ones to rest on our laurels, your friends over at Trademark Of Quality have launched yet another a sister blog, the TMQ Zine Archive. Our goal is to create a library of zines (culled from our extensive collection), including a cover photo gallery, as a way to document the wild and wacky small press publications of the '80s and '90s, before the worldwide web thingie and blogs and such all but killed off the zine as a tool of self-expression.

For our first section of zines, we chose Nashville's House O' Pain music zine. Drop by the zine archive when you get a chance and check out this little slice of zine history. As usual, your comments are welcome and there's also an email link on every page with which to contact the Reverend. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Peace, Love And Anarchy

Check out my review of Todd Snider's Peace, Love And Anarchy (Rarities, B-Sides And Demos) CD, which was posted this afternoon over at the Trademark Of Quality audioblog. An East Nashville resident, Snider has been a fixture of the local music scene for years and is part of a talented community of friends like Will Kimbrough, Tommy Womack, Mike "Grimey" Grimes and Jason Ringenberg that have worked together to create some of the city's most interesting and critically-acclaimed music.

Snider recently left John Prine's Oh Boy Records for Universal's New Door Records label, which released The Devil You Know last year. As such, Peace, Love And Anarchy is the obligatory "goodbye and farewell" from Oh Boy, collecting song demos and other odds and ends. Head over to Trademark Of Quality and read the review and, for a short time, listen to mp3 files from the album.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Ain't No Train revisited, YouTube and more bands!

Over at my Trademark Of Quality audioblog, I posted a review of Pete Berwick's incredible Ain't No Train Outta Nashville CD last weekend. Give it a read if you get a chance and listen to mp3 files from the disc. Then go to Pete's website and order yourself a copy of the CD. You'll be glad that you did!

I've used Allen Sullivant as a source for my YouTube postings on this blog before; now I've copped his stuff for an article on the Associated Content web site that I wrote called "YouTubing Nashville Rock: Allen Sullivant's Top Ten" (link). I have to say up front that the video choices in the article are entirely my own and do not reflect on Allen at all, save for the fact that I got them all from his Practical Stylists page on YouTube. I meant them to be my top ten videos from Allen's page, but something got taken out of context in the editing. Check out the article, though, if only to watch the hilarious four-part television report on "Nashville New Wave" that Allen dug up.

If you haven't check out Allen's website -- the Nashville '80s Rock Archive -- then get thee hence immediately!! Allen's done a great job of collecting music from a bunch of Nashville bands in mp3 format (not just his brother's band, the Practical Stylists), as well as scans of show posters and a bunch of local music zines, including many copies of the Nashville Intelligence Report, all in PDF format.

Which gets us around to another amending of the "official" band list. I started work on the Nashville rock discography a little less than two weeks ago and found a bunch of new bands, mostly from compilation CDs that I entered into the discography listing. I've entered over 100 cassettes and CDs into the discography over the last ten days or so, with another three shelves (300+ CDs) waiting to be entered. Then I'll move over to the vinyl and get it listed. I hope to have the bulk of the discography done (except for last-minute additions) by the end of May.

Anyway, in the course of my research, I found a lot of bands that I remembered as playing around town and recording and being part of the local scene in general, so I've listed them below. Some, like CASUAL WATER or JUSTIN HEAT were easy since I've found articles and such to go along with songs on the comp CDs. The emails keep on pouring in, as well, with PLACID FURY leading the nominations by readers suggesting bands for the list, followed closely by VERDANT GREEN and THE BLUE MILLION, two bands that David Meade played with. Some, like THE BARKING SPIDERS never recorded (as far as I know) but are notable for their members being in other, better-known.

Two bands that I decided to add to the list may draw protests from some of you that follow this blog, and the project's progress -- STEELER and HUMAN RADIO. I had received a few emails from people recommending that Steeler be added to the list, and since I knew them to be a L.A. band, I hadn't taken them real seriously until this week. Doing a little research, however, I discovered that previous to Steeler, frontman Ron Keel had been the singer for LUST, a Nashville hard rock band that was pretty well-known in their day.

According to his bio, Keel actually formed Steeler with local scene veterans in Nashville, and the band played around town for a while before leaving for the bright lights of Hollywood. Although the Nashville line-up was gone by the time that Steeler recorded its one album, those guys did record some demos and released several singles that have recently been gathered on a compilation CD, so I'm going to include them on the list.

As for HUMAN RADIO, I'm adding both the band and ROSS RICE to the list. Human Radio was actually from Memphis, but the band moved lock, stock and barrel to the Music City after the release of its lone major label CD. They played around town frequently, so I'm going to put them in on an "honorary" basis. Rice stuck around town after the band broke up and members moved back to Memphis, recording one album for Jack Emerson and Steve Earle's E Squared Records. Ross played around town a heck of a lot as I remember, before he too got tired of Nashville and headed back west.

Contrary to popular belief, the Rock City Angels were not a Nashville band (even though they are credited as such in several places). This band was originally from Florida and moved to LA, where they signed with Geffen. The label subsequently stuck them in Memphis for almost two years to record their debut album, during which time the RC Angels hung around Nashville a good bit looking for a guitar player. They also played Nashville quite frequently, as I recall, and I remember seeing them with Detroit's Jugglers & Thieves (Hi Jill!) at a downtown club in 1988 or '89. Regardless of their local presence, the Rock City Angels DO NOT get on the list. Amazing what a little research can do, eh?

Got information on any of these bands, or any of the bands on the list, or were you in a band that I should know about? Email me at rev.gordon(at)gmail.com and I promise to get back to you sooner or (probably) later.

THE BARKING SPIDERS,
THE BLUE MILLION,
CASUAL WATER, COUNT BASS-D,
THE CROWD, DINAH SHORE, JR.,
FEARLESS FREEP, HUMAN RADIO,
IN YOUR FACE, JUSTIN HEAT,
TOM KIMMEL, LARK WATTS,
MERCY SANCTION, PLACID FURY,
ROSS RICE, SOULSKIN,
SPIKE & MALLETS, STEELER,
STIKKI WIKKIT, SUICIDE ALLEY,
VERDANT GREEN

BTW, the "official list" is now 451 bands strong with these additions. Can we hit 500 names of legitimate bands? It doesn't look so questionable now....

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

More Nashville Rock On You Tube

Since our previous post on Nashville rock videos found on You Tube proved to be so popular, spawning several emails and comments, I thought that I'd go digging again and see what Nashville rock gems might be unearthed on the site. Of course, the obvious first place to look is on Allen Sullivant's You Tube page, as Allen has a bunch of ultra-groovy local vids that he has rescued for posterity. Since I kicked off this blog's mp3 entries with the Questionnaires a couple of nights ago, below you'll find links to a pair of that band's videos, including the official label-made "Window To The World" from the 1989 album of the same name, along with a cool cover of the Flamin' Groovies "Teenage Head."

It would only be fair, since I'm raiding Allen's video vault, that I include a couple of selections from his brother Scott's wonderful band, Practical Stylists. Keeping with the Flamin' Groovies theme, I've included a 1983 performance of "Shake Some Action," captured live at Cantrell's. What the band's "You Never Call," also from Cantrell's circa 1983, lacks in resolution it more than makes up for in energy and the song's catchy hook. Practical Stylists were a good band in their day, very popular in the region and easily the Music City equivalent of better-known power-pop outfits like the Records or the Shirts.

Also in a power-pop vein is this cool video by Bill Lloyd & the December Boys. Bill and the band were promoting the1986 Summer Lights Festival with this live performance of "Nothing Comes Close" from the Channel 5 studios. For our final take from Allen's stash, we've nicked a rare video of pre-show footage shot at a 1983 Cat's Records show held outside the store on West End Avenue. Onstage are the Practical Stylists, and I could swear that I saw Rick Champion helping the band set-up. There are a lot of other familiar faces in the crowd as well, so take a look.

Robert Logue let me know of this cool video for the Shakers' song "Jewel" from 1991 and I found another Shakers' video, featuring a haunting live performance of the band's "Mystery Gift," that was shot live (and transferred with a minimum of pixelation) at 328 Performance Hall. How about this live performance by Dan Baird & Homemade Sin, shot last October on a camera phone of all things? Dan moved to Nashville during the Georgia Satellites' brief stardom, and his band features the great Kenny McMahan of the Dusters, so even though the sound is distorted and the faces washed out, we threw it in here anyway 'cause it rocks!

Finally, in memory of Billy Chinnock, here's a link to the official label video for "Somewhere In The Night. " Good song, lousy video, and proof that during the '80s the labels had absolutely no idea how to make music videos (not that they do much better today). Considering how badly CBS (now Sony) fucked up Chinnock's career, the video should come as no surprise. This one makes absolutely no sense in the context of the song and ends with a ridiculous bar fight. At least Billy gives as good as he gets during the free-for-all and he even gets the girl in the end. That's show biz, I guess! Enjoy the videos and, as usual, your comments are welcome!

Dan Baird & Homemade Sin - "Railroad Steel"

Cat's Records Outdoor Show - Pre-Show Footage

Billy Chinnock "Something In The Night"

Bill Lloyd & the December Boys "Nothing Comes Close"

Practical Stylists "Shake Some Action"

Practical Stylists "You Never Call"

The Questionnaires "Teenage Head"

The Questionnaires "Window To The World"

The Shakers "Jewel"

The Shakers "Mystery Gift"

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Somewhere In The Night: Billy Chinnock Remembered

While thumbing through the current issue of Rolling Stone, a small but disturbing story caught my eye. Alongside the tragic tale of Boston vocalist Brad Delp’s suicide was a (much) shorter piece about the death of Billy Chinnock. A rock & roll lifer whose career spanned Asbury Park, New Jersey; Nashville, Tennessee; and Portland, Maine, Chinnock sadly took his own life on March 7th, 2007 after a long bout with Lyme Disease.

Chinnock launched his career on the Asbury Park boardwalk during the late-60s. Chinnock’s Downtown Tangiers Rockin Rhythm & Blues Band included musicians like future E Street Band members Gary Tallent and Danny Federici, Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez and David Sancious. Although Chinnock was plagued throughout his career with unfair Springsteen comparisons (much like Pittsburgh’s Joe Grushecky), the fact is that both artists were products of the same era and place, subjected to many of the same cultural and geographic influences and listening to a lot of the same music. Whereas Springsteen leaned more towards early garage rock and the one-hit-wonders of ‘60s AM radio, Chinnock’s music was influenced more by roots-rock and blues.

When A&R legend John Hammond recommended that Chinnock work on his songwriting, the artist broke away from his heavy touring on the Jersey shore rock scene and moved to Maine in 1974, where he honed his craft while continuing to perform and record. Chinnock later migrated to Nashville during the early-80s at the prompting of musician and producer Harold Bradley. Bradley had received a cassette of his material and got in touch with Chinnock, and the two subsequently became friends. Chinnock was interested in the renewal of country influence on rock music and was impressed by the energy of the Nashville music scene, so he decided to come down and check it out for himself.

Chinnock integrated himself in the local music scene by jumping in headfirst, playing frequently at local clubs and WKDF-sponsored riverboat shows, as well as outdoor shows at Hermitage Landing. I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Billy for The Metro magazine in 1985, and witnessed firsthand his dynamic performance at that year’s “Rock For The Animals” show, which included Afrikan Dreamland, Walk The West, The Paper Dolls, Raging Fire, Hard Knox, Roxx and Bill Lloyd and the December Boys – a veritable “who’s who” of the mid-80s Nashville rock underground.

While living in Nashville, Chinnock recorded two landmark albums with producer Bradley – 1985’s independently released Rock & Roll Cowboy, and the 1987 CBS Records release Learning To Survive In The Modern Age, which yielded a minor hit single in the song “Somewhere In The Night.” Chinnock later won an Emmy for “Somewhere In The Night,” which had been used in a daytime soap opera. Chinnock later recorded a chart-topping duet with Roberta Flack which was used as the theme for The Guiding Light television show.

Like many non-country musicians in the “Music City,” Chinnock found a great deal of frustration in Nashville and the local scene. Already a veteran of 20 years of performing and recording, he was more polished and experienced than any of the rockers playing Nashville’s club scene. Although he had a loyal following – mostly blue-collar WKDF listeners – he was dismissed as too slick and mainstream by the local underground. Truth is, Chinnock’s roots-rock style was easily a decade (or two) ahead of its time, and was edgier and had less “commercial potential” at that time than most of Nashville’s more acclaimed “alternative” rock bands.

While I was managing a Nashville pizza delivery restaurant in the late-80s, I noticed an order going out to Chinnock’s Belmont Avenue area home. I hadn’t seen Billy in a couple of years and since I was getting off work, I paid for the pizza and drove over to make the delivery and say “hello.” Chinnock seemed happy to see me and we ended up talking for a couple of hours, off the cuff and mostly “off the record.” He expressed a lot of anger over the way that CBS had been messing with his career…Billy had a new album in the can and was ready to have it released and launch a supporting tour. Considering that Chinnock had just won an Emmy and had the highest profile of his career, I can see why he wanted the album released. However, CBS didn’t think the album “marketable” and, after a prolonged battle, dropped Chinnock from his contract.

The CBS debacle, inexcusable as it was, was not the first time that Chinnock’s work had been obstructed by small-minded label executives. Signed by Paramount Records, the label released his debut album Blues in 1974, but shelved his sophomore effort, Road Master, which was produced by Tom Dowd at the legendary Bell Sound Studios in Los Angeles. To the best of my knowledge, the album has never been released. In the wake of fellow Asbury Park rocker Bruce Springsteen’s success, Atlantic Records signed Chinnock to be their Springsteen and released his album Badlands in 1978. When Badlands went nowhere, the label decided to call it a day (after already recording most of a second album); Chinnock evidently got the rights to his masters back and released the 1980 album himself as Dime Store Heroes.

After spending the better part of the decade fighting the system, by 1990 Chinnock had left Nashville in his rear view mirror as he headed back to Maine, where he would enjoy almost 20 years of creativity and performing. 1990’s Thunder In The Valley, released under the name “Billy & the American Suns,” would be Chinnock’s last major label album. He would continue to record until the end of his life, releasing material on his own indie label, East Coast Records. Chinnock also began to dabble in graphic arts and made a name for himself as a filmmaker and video producer, creating the award-winning film The Forgotten Maine.

Chinnock had suffered from Lyme Disease for eight years, the result of a nasty tick bite. The disease defied treatment, ravaging his immune system and leaving him in a great deal of pain. His mother, who lived with Chinnock and with whom he was very close, died ten days before Chinnock. Consumed with grief and suffering from chronic daily pain, Chinnock evidently saw no other way out than suicide. He was 59 years old, still young by today’s rock & roll standards.

Chinnock’s sister, Caroline Payne, remembers that her brother was never envious of the success enjoyed by the artist many critics unfairly compared his work to. “I never saw him have any of that,” she told the Portland Press Herald. “I never saw any frustration in him, any jealousy like that. He thought Bruce Springsteen was phenomenal.” Although his vocals could often times sound like Springsteen’s, Chinnock’s music was always original, heartfelt and genuine, and over the course of a mostly unheralded career that ran almost four decades, Chinnock released 13 albums and entertained a hell of a lot of people.

As usual, John Hammond was right on target when he called Billy Chinnock “the real essence of American music.”

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