Frank’s Faves on Fridays

Nick Lowe – “You Got The Look I Like” (1990)

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I think I’m beginning to see a slight pattern here. Along with some other songs you’ve suggested in the past, I have a feeling that you have a soft spot for roots-rock-inspired power pop. (Could that be called Roots-Pop?) I, on the other hand, have no such special fondness for Roots-Pop. I don’t mind it, but it’s way down on the what-am-I-in-the-mood-to-listen-to-today list. I’m much happier experiencing this music in a live setting rather than sitting at home with the headphones on. I think that the experience of this music is infinitely enhanced by hearing it very loudly in an establishment that sells alcohol, and for the listener to be sweaty and grinning, surrounded by other sweaty, grinning listeners, all having a grand time. For example, one of my all-time favourite concert experiences was George Thorogood and The Destroyers in the 80’s. It was great. But listening to George’s music at home? Eh. Take it or leave it. Now, back to Nick’s song. My favourite part was the rising chromatic passing riff (the first one at 0:24) – it’s a fairly common musical device, but I’ve always loved it when musicians put that little bit in songs. And I liked the drums. (Plenty of tom-tom action there, Frank.) I’ve heard the song four times now, but unfortunately I didn’t like it any more each time. However, I didn’t like it any less. (I still liked it, though. That’s due, in big part, to Nick Lowe. I find him enormously likeable.)

Shelley Fabares – “Johnny Angel” (1962)

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A splendid example of a “prom date” song. (Or maybe I can just call it a “Johnny” song.) I can’t really say anything exceptionally insightful or witty about this song, because it explains itself. All you have to do is listen to the track and you’ll hear everything splendid about it: the song structure (a perfect example for that type of late-Fifties/early-Sixties song); the singing (Shelley Fabares’ voice is the sound of a pink chiffon dress); the musical accompaniment (ideal for this song – plus those pizzicato strings are sublime); and much, much more. Everything about it is a superb example of the craftsmanship (or hackwork, considering how quickly these songs were churned out by the people involved) that went into these “Johnny” songs. I love it to bits.

The Rubinoos – “You Don’t Know Her” (1998)

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I’ve heard about The Rubinoos but never actually gotten around to ever hearing anything by them. If this song is typical of The Rubinoos, I’m glad to have made their acquaintance. This song sounds to me like Paul McCartney circa-“I’ve Just Seen A Face” performed by the Raspberries (the Rubinoos’ vocal harmonies have “Raspberries” written all over them.) Although I really liked just about everything in “You Don’t Know Her”, I want to make a special point of mentioning the guitar solo – I think it’s fantastic. It’s incredibly inventive and well played. Now, I’m not wearing a hat at the moment – and I don’t know of anyone else who might be wearing a hat at the moment either – but I’m still going to say this: Hats off to the guitarist responsible for that guitar solo. I like this song a lot. And I’m now going to belatedly* get to know the music of The Rubinoos.

(*Ah, well. Better late than later.)

Grand Funk – “Can You Do It” (1976)

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What an odd song. When it finally started, I thought that it’s pretty much yer standard Grand Funk Railroad. I listened to it, thought it was OK, listened to it again, still thought it was OK, listened to it one more time, and wondered why I didn’t feel anything (positive or negative) about this song. I noticed little things (like a couple of missed background vocal cues, the bass guitarist picking his strings a little too hard, and the guitar sounding like it had been borrowed directly from Lynyrd Skynyrd), but overall it was a big heap o’ nothin’ for me. Many apologies if you hold this song dear. By the way, “Can You Do It” appears on Grand Funk’s 1976 album, Good Sing’ Good Playin’. I’m mentioning this because I’ve just seen the album cover, and I have to say that I think it’s horrible:

The band was OK with that picture? They approved that?

I think the back cover is much better:

I must say that I was more than surprised when I saw on the back cover that Frank Zappa produced the album. My immediate reaction was to put an exclamation mark after Frank’s name. I think I will: a Grand Funk album was produced by Frank Zappa (!). I don’t quite understand what led Frank “Why play a simple rock song when I can make it very complicated?” Zappa to become involved with a band as uncomplicated as Grand Funk Railroad. I haven’t heard the album, so I can’t tell how much Frank influenced the end result. For example, I don’t know if the band introduced extended musical passages (featuring unusual instrumentation) that aren’t related to the rest of the songs they’re in, or if they unexpectedly inserted smutty humour at various point in their songs. Frank Zappa. Grand Funk. I don’t get it.

Bonus instrumental:

The Brass Ring – “The Dis-Advantages Of You” (1967)

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Nice. The first time I played it, I was quietly grooving to the track, thinking that it wasn’t one of the best pieces of Easy Listening I’ve ever come across (to me, the tunes weren’t especially memorable), but when the saxophones kicked in at 1:03 I thought “Oh yeah – that’s much better.” And with each subsequent listen, I’ve enjoyed “The Dis-Advantages Of You” more and more. Yummy. I’ve listened to it four times now. And I think I’ll listen to it again.

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