Spots based on desiccated revisions of old rock songs (worst: “Runaround Sue” as a commercial for Zipwax—“I never thought I’d be singing about hair remover,” says a breathless ms.) have become so ubiquitous that ads featuring the real thing now work as relief—and none more than these, which offer a measured voice recounting the history and etiquette of wine ‘n’ fruit juice consumption. The original buy traced the discovery of the beverage to California beaches, circa 1963—thus the Kingsmen, entering with a crash and tripping all over themselves—and provided a rundown on the drinking vessel de rigueur on the given beach (mayonnaise jar for Malibu, turkey baster for Santa Cruz). The latest argues that the stuff is appropriate to any setting—so, after the Kingsmen cover the beachfront, an opera singer essays “Louie Louie,” a jazz combo plays it, and a mariachi band turns it into ethnic festival music. It’s a true contribution to rock history: three more shots to add to college stations’ “Louie Louie” marathons, whose annual accumulations have already unearthed more than a thousand versions of a song that wasn’t even a hit for Richard Berry, its auteur.
2. Black Uhuru, Brutal (RAS)
This sophisticated reggae combo lost a bit of soul with the departure of lead singer Michael Rose, but Junior Reid sounds enough like him to keep the story going; as always, the story is in the way chants, rhythms, and melodies are suspended, then stretched, broken, recreated. The story takes its power from the tension between the need to guard a secret and the wish to reveal it; the closest the group ever came to letting it loose was “Vampire,” the closing cut on the 1980 Sinsemilla, and its mood of gnostic initiation is present on almost every track of Brutal.
3. Chris Furby and Slim Smith, God Crazy (Workforce Corporation, OK/Last Gasp, P.O. Box 212, Berkeley, California 94701)
Imagine the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ tract factory taken over by graduates of the Richard Hamilton School of Advertising Collage—the result is an astonishingly sustained example of post-punk dadaism, a little comic book pamphlet so winning it might deconvert David Thomas, if not Michael Jackson. Listen to Jesus, stretched out on the cross: “You, too, can have a body like mine!”4. Teena Marie, Emerald City (Epic)
The white funk queen’s latest is being pushed as a breakthrough because it’s got horrible ballads, pseudo-Brazilian foderol, and third-rate jazz on side two. The action is on side one, Prince country: as with “Kiss,” you get pure sex without a single warning-label word. But “Kiss” was foreplay; this is the exchange of bodily fluids.
5. Moody Blues, “In Your Wildest Dreams” (Polydor)
I spent two months trying to resist this soppy melody, and it can’t be done.6. Timex Social Club, “Rumours” (Jay)
A smash because the sound captures the concept: to listen is to eavesdrop.
7. Mr. T Experience, street flyer (Berkeley, July 11)
It’s been said that “The moment of real poetry brings all the unsettled debts of history back into play”; this photocopy, just band name, gig info, and former Attorney General John Mitchell, is a moment of real poetry.
8. Alex Bennett Show, July 8 (6:30-10 a.m. weekdays, KITS-FM, San Francisco)
Bennett, who used to host Midnight Blue on New York cable TV, opens each day with “The Morning Obituaries”; regularly fighting for the mike with such motormouth comics as Bob Goldthwait, Steven Pearl, and Bobby Slayton, he runs the only wake-up show to carry an “Adults Only” disclaimer. Here, deferring to the random-drug-testing rules announced by Peters Ueberroth and Rozelle (“Commissioners of Urine”), Bennett inaugurated a new feature: a daily spin of the Peter Wheel to select a candidate from the world of pop. First winner, no surprise: Boy George.9. Paul Brady, “Steel Claw,” from True for You (21/Atco)
Brady made his name with traditional Irish music; now, with a tune that had a tepid debut on Tina Turner’s Private Dancer, he rocks out. It’s irresistible guitar-based traditional late-’60s music; the rest of the LP is traditional sub-Van Morrison music.
10. Anonymous, The International Battle of the Century—The Beatles vs the Third Reich (VE)
In the spirit of Elvis’ Greatest Shit!!, an impeccably designed and produced bootleg parody of Vee-Jay’s 1964 The Beatles vs the Four Seasons. Back then, “scoring by rounds,” you were invited to rate “I Saw Her Standing There” against “Sherry”; now, you judge a muddy, previously unreleased 1962 Hamburg Star-Club tape against crowd noise. That is, “The Beatles Perform” “Till There Was You,” “Where Have You Been All My Life,” and “To Know Her Is to Love Her,” and “The Audience Responds” “Ach Du Leiber,” “Mach Shau,” and “Arbeit Macht Frei””—the latter being the slogan that once adorned the gates of Auschwitz. Sharp.
Village Voice, August 1986 (TBC)