Desert Island Singles: “Rendezvous” by The Hudson Brothers (1975)

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The Hudson Brothers were The Monkees* in reverse: they were a real band that got turned into teenybopper idols. Not unlike Hanson. I don’t know what the music industry’s obsession is with chopping and channeling and modifying and rebranding brother acts. (Do they do the same with sister acts?)

* – Disclaimer: I’m a huge Monkees fan. It’s inexcusable that they’re not in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. Another topic for another day.

Bill, Mark, and Brett Hudson started making records in the late ’60s. They recorded under various names and bounced from label to label until the mid ’70s, when they landed on Sir Elton John’s Rocket Records. Their onstage banter and shenanigans were hysterically funny, and they caught the attention of CBS television execs. An evening variety show followed, then a couple of Saturday morning kids’ shows. In the meantime, however, they kept on recording astonishingly good music.

Bill Hudson, the oldest brother, married and divorced Goldie Hawn and is the father of actress Kate Hudson. (Dude, Goldie Hawn, fer crissake.)  He still works as a session musician and actor. Middle brother Mark was the bandleader for Joan Rivers’ short-lived late night talk show on Fox, and eventually helped Ringo Starr put together the All-Starr Band. Kid brother Brett was groomed to be a teenybopper idol, which never quite worked out. Later he underwent treatment for throat cancer, and is now in remission and works as a movie producer.

“Rendezvous” is from their best album, Ba-Fa. Produced by Sir Elton’s longtime songwriting collaborator Bernie Taupin, this is about as perfect as a three-and-a-half-minute power pop song gets. Written by the Hudsons and Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, whose influence is easy to hear. More hooks than a tackle box. A great sing-able chorus with falsetto the first two times, and not the third time just to throw us off. A cheesy Farfisa organ and a Clarence Clemons-style sax break. An a capella break near the end that relaunches back to the chorus. And it builds nicely too: it opens with just a guitar riff, adds the Farfisa, and then kicks into high gear. This is sing-along-in-the-car music.

This song just makes me stupidly happy, like Shonen Knife and Mac & Katie Kissoon. Disappointingly, all the Hudsons’ records are out of print. A best-of compilation was released briefly on CD: used copies start at about $75 on Amazon. If any knowledgeable reader can hook me up with some mp3s, give me a shout. I’d be eternally grateful.

Song of the night: “She’s Gone” by Blue Cartoon (1999)

Heard this song for the first time on a compilation power pop CD called “International Pop Overthrow” (the first of about 14 volumes so far, I think). This is by far the standout song on the disc. Songwriter John McElhenny was lead singer with Blue Cartoon on their first two albums, then amicably parted company with the band. He’s since re-recorded this with his new band Buzzie. Blue Cartoon’s version is still the best.

She’s alone
Pretty face
And a smile left out for me
She looks up
Penetrates the darkness around me
Surrounding me…

She’s gone – now I’m sorry she was ever here
She’s gone – now I’m wishing she would reappear
She’s gone – I was hurting even less
When she was here

I can still feel her near
And the taste of her perfume
On my tongue
In my bed
And in summer’s golden hue

We move on through the days
She was captured for a while
She was here yesterday
I don’t know if she’ll come today
Come today…

She’s gone – now I’m sorry she was ever here
She’s gone – now I’m wishing she would reappear
She’s gone – I was hurting even less
When she was here

She moves on
I’m alone
But it feels like yesterday
She was here
In my arms
But there’s nothing left to say

She’s gone – now I’m sorry she was ever here
She’s gone – now I’m wishing she would reappear
She’s gone – I was hurting even less
When she was here

Song of the day: “We Don’t Talk Anymore” by Michael Carpenter

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This is a “cover” version of a ’70s pop classic by Cliff Richard. It’s part of a new music project called “Drink A Toast To Innocence: A Tribute To Lite Rock.” The good folks at Kickstarter are helping to make it happen; I don’t have a stake in it, except that I dig the hell out of these songs and want this to succeed.

Check it out. It’ll bring back some good memories. Contribute if you can.

PS: I already got the green light from the station owner. All of these songs will be in hot rotation on the home of the hits, KBEK 95.5 FM.

PPS: A nice shout-out from Andrew Curry!

Song of the night: “When Losers Rule The World” by The Cicadas (1997)

A power-pop side project featuring two of my favorites: Rodney Crowell and Ben Vaughn. This has a definite Nick Lowe vibe to it.

Desert Island Singles: “Golden Blunders” by The Posies (1990)

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My lifelong friend/brother-in-law John Godfrey, who with my sister Colleen founded KBEK, used to give me a rash of shit about my taste in radio stations. He observed that it was always the kiss of death for a station’s format if I decided it was my new favorite. Once I anoint it so, he continued, the station almost instantly discovers that its format is untenable and unprofitable and either (a) changes formats or (b) goes out of business.

There’s probably more truth in that than I care to admit. The radio stations I’ve loved over the years tacked toward the “modern rock” format. Unfortunately, there’s a built-in self-limiting circuit in modern rock: that is, alt-rock fans deeply cherish their alt status and are terrified of being thought of as “mainstream.” Once a radio station legitimizes their music by building a format around it, whoops! It’s instantly too entrenched to be alt anymore. It’s like an Anarchy Center with set business hours. Buh-bye. Like a high school kid told me about ten years ago, “If Nine Inch Nails are so alternative, why is my whole senior class here at the concert?” (No wonder radio programmers throw their hands in the air and scurry to the predictability of “new country” whenever the economy goes soft.)

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This was certainly true of the late lamented KJ 104, from 1990 till 1995 the first true alternative station in the Twin Cities. Critics loved it, fans adored it, but Arbitron ratings couldn’t even track it and sponsors didn’t support it. So, guess what? Overnight one night it became “New Country Thunder 104.1.” Just what the Twin Cities needed: another interchangeable, indistinguishable source of Garth Brooks, Toby Keith, and Reba McIntyre.

While it lasted, though, KJ 104 introduced me to some amazing artists and songs. One of them is today’s Desert Island Single: “Golden Blunders” by The Posies. Power-pop bands typically channel the spirits of The Five B’s: The Beatles, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Badfinger, and/or Big Star. This song goes in quite a different direction. Imagine The Hollies from 1966 jamming with  R.E.M. from 1983 and The Smithereens from 1988, and there you have The Posies. This song has a timelessness about it, and could have been a radio hit in just about any era. In fact Ringo Starr covered it a few years later, and still features it in his All-Starr Band shows.

We’ve all made a golden blunder or three over the years, a colossal misjudgement with ramifications beyond the immediate. I once described 10,000 Maniacs as playing “happy songs about sad topics.” That pretty much describes “Golden Blunders” too, a song about a couple who commit too quickly, and under pressure, and experience discontent and disappointment and regret. Wed in haste, repent in leisure, as the saying used to go.

Golden blunders come in pairs, they’re very unaware
What they know is what they’ve seen
Education wasn’t fun, but now that school is done
Higher learning’s just begun

You’re gonna watch what you say for a long time
You’re gonna suffer the guilt forever
You’re gonna get in the way at the wrong time
You’re gonna mess up things you thought you would never

Disappointment breeds contempt, it make you feel inept
Never thought you’d feel alone at home
His and hers forevermore, throw your freedom out of the door
Before you find out what it’s for

Four weeks seemed like a long time then
But nine months is longer now
But even if you never speak again
You’ve already made the wedding vow

Honeymoons will never start, bonds will blow apart
Just as fast as they were made
Men and women please beware: don’t pretend you care
Nothing lasts when nothing’s there

“Golden Blunders” is a deceptively listenable song about profound adult emotions and the fragility of grown-up relationships. It stays with you. A Desert Island Single to be sure.

Desert Island Singles: “Tonight” by Raspberries (1973)


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I used to keep “Raspberries Greatest Hits”— the cassette — in my car. They haven’t gotten the respect they deserved in my opinion. Soaring choruses, Beach Boy harmonies over crunchy Who guitars, lyrics simultaneously innocent, lascivious, and all about sex, sex, sex continue to make for an unbeatable combination. – Bruce Springsteen

They looked and sounded almost out of place in their own time – even the band’s name sounded, well, dorky as all get out. But they ended up having three (count ’em) top-40 hits, and that isn’t exactly sneezing matter. – BluesDuke

Are you familiar with the Little Rascals? There was a character in some of the episodes named Froggy. Anyway, in one episode, every time something would happen, he’d say, “Aw, raspberries!” in that froggy voice. We’d been rehearsing for about a month and had tried to come up with a name but we hadn’t found anything we liked. Any time anyone came up with an idea, it was met with things thrown at them, booing and hissing or whatever. We were really getting down to the wire — our first date was coming up in about a week and we hadn’t named the band yet. That episode was on and I came into the rehearsal with my latest idea and they all hated it and I said, “Aw, raspberries!” and that was how it happened. – Eric Carmen

Raspberries were blustery and melodramatic, a fusion of classic 50’s/60’s pop romanticism and ear-splitting hard rock that was perfectly tailored to the early 70’s listening public. With Wally Bryson’s simple, epic riffs and Eric Carmen’s heartthrob of a voice, Raspberries’ singles like “Go All The Way” and “I Wanna Be With You” were simply overwhelming celebrations of teenage lust and hard-rockin’ good times… Carmen comes off as something of a power-pop superhero, turning simple odes to teenage love into the most epic of anthems – basically, he’s Paul McCartney on steroids. And I mean, for God’s sakes, they wrote matching tuxedo shirts and bouffant hairdos. How could any hot-blooded 70’s record-buyer resist? – Sean Rose

The king-sized guitar figure Bryson uses to launch “Tonight” has a bark worthy of Jimmy Page, while drummer Jim Bonfanti lets loose with lots of manic drum fills worthy of his obvious role model, Keith Moon. – Allmusic

“Tonight” typifies what most made Raspberries so legendary: sleazy advertisements for teen sex driven by punchy guitars, irresistibly tasty melodic hooks, and sweet harmonies. – The Cleveland Free Press

Before Eric Carmen became a Barry Manilow clone and started singing for the “Dirty Dancing” soundtrack, he rocked like a freakin’ banshee.

I am now and always will be a three-minute pop song guy. In high school my buds were rockin’ out to Zep, Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Grand Funk. I tacked toward 45s and Badfinger, Creedence,  Three Dog Night… and Raspberries. This one came out the summer before senior year, and it rocked then, and it rocked now.

But the marketing super-geniuses at Capitol Records had no idea how to market them. There’s a surprise. By the time Raspberries winnowed out some hit singles, discontent set in about Carmen being groomed as The Breakout Star. Four albums is all they gave us. All are surprisingly good, each contains one or two power-pop gems. “Tonight” is probably their best song. It’s testosterone-y.

One of the best quotes I’ve ever read about power pop.

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From Patrick Schabe at

Fans of pure pop (a/k/a power pop) often act like they’re a tiny breed of specialist music lovers, obscured by mainstream commercial acts and forced to justify their love for, and definition of, “pop” against the media-saturated impressions promoted by the Mickey Mouse Club. And this is basically true. But it’s also true that the pop underground is actually a fairly crowded place, and a fair number of labels and musicians cater to we much-beleaguered popsters. This double whammy of minimal exposure and proliferation of artists working in the cracks of the industry often means that exceptional music gets overlooked as often as pabulum gets derided.

And then there’s the pop fan’s rallying cry: “If there was any justice in the world, (insert band here) would be on the radio every day!” But commercialism and corporations rule the day, and many bands that have all the right combinations of talent, style, and a killer melody/harmony one-two punch are shuffled off to the sidelines to watch media magnets gain all the fame and glory. So it’s left to us, the rueful and world-weary pop audiences, to assemble our own small community networks to fight the power. The best that we can hope for is to draw each other’s attention to bands that we may have missed.

Brand new song of the season: “(There’s No War On Christmas) When Christmas Is In Your Heart” by The Mockers

They started up with that stuff again,
I saw them on TV,
Bill and Ann and Rush and Glen,
And all their coterie.
They said that there’s a battle raging,
All across the land,
And called their armies into war
But I don’t understand.

‘Cause what they’ve all been saying,
It isn’t very smart.
‘Cause there’s no war on Christmas,
When Christmas is in your heart.

It doesn’t really matter
If you use an X or C.
I doubt that Jesus would have cared.
They both spell love to me.
So you can wish me Merry Christmas
Or Happy Holidays.
You’re only saying Peace On Earth
In many different ways.

So don’t let all those Grinches
Pull us all apart.
‘Cause there’s no war on Christmas
When Christmas is in your heart.

So don’t let all those Scrooges
Pull us all apart.
‘Cause there’s no war on Christmas
If Christmas is in your…
If we just loved each other,
That would be a start.
‘Cause there’s no war on Christmas,
No, there’s no war on Christmas.
I can’t believe they missed this:
That Christmas is in your,
Christmas is in your,
Christmas is in your heart.

There’ll be no war on Christmas this year…

(That would be nice…)

(In your heart…)

Buy it here.  Props to Seth Gordon, who sent me a promo copy for radio play.

PS – Take that, Toby Keith, you gigantic douche-nozzle.

Song of the night: “You Were On My Mind” by Jamie Hoover

Jamie Hoover is a founding member of The Spongetones, and one hell of a talented musician. “You Were On My Mind” was written by Sylvia Tyson of the legendary Canadian folk duo Ian and Sylvia. The duo recorded it in 1964, and California folk-rock group The We Five re-recorded it in 1965. Their version went to #3 on the Billboard chart that fall. Many singers and bands have covered it over the years, but I do believe Jamie owns it now.

That said, I always thought 10,000 Maniacs should have covered this one.

Song of the day: “Feelin’ So Good” by The Lolas

Whoppa bow bow
Whoppa bow bow
Whoppa bow bow
My Skooby Doo!