Archive | February, 2014

Salt In The Eyes: Styx

16 Feb

Where did it all go so wrong for Styx?

They had talented rock guitarists in James Young and Tommy Shaw, and they had early solid hits with the Top Ten ‘Lady’ and Top 40 with ‘Lorelei’. In ’77 they had breakthrough triple gold with ‘The Grand Illusion’ in which spawned ‘Come Sail Away’, ‘Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)’ and my favorite ‘Miss America’. Following that monster album, ‘Pieces of Eight’ was released in ’78 and yielded ‘Renegade’. In ’79 yet another big album was ‘Cornerstone’ and the #1 hit ‘Babe’.

Then came 1981’s ‘Paradise Theater’, a golden example of a band making the choice to move away from their bread and butter and taking themselves much too seriously. Come on, seriously, “The Best of Times’? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

I still enjoy listening to Styx every so often, especially The Grand Illusion. They originally hailed from the Midwest, so I wonder what those blogs that originate from that area remember about the good that was Styx and what they think about Styx and their demise. It’s probably only me that thinks of them in those terms, because they sold enough copies of schlock to clog the airways for years. So, the joke is on me.

For me personally, their jumping the shark episode came with ‘Kilroy Was Here’ in 1981. Supposedly a rock opera set in the future where rock music has been outlawed, and their ensuing musical struggles with the man. Ugh. And they then turned the blender filled blasé into a stage show. Ugh².

However, the video – oy!, the video. But, don’t wonder and fret for no good reason fans, they did indeed leave behind video proof of what surely had to have been legendary bloated production costs for the visual that must have caused their record label executives to carry a travel tankard of antacids.

So, for this episode of Salt in The Eyes, I present to you the splendor that is Styx and Mr. Roboto.

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Sir Douglas Quintet

5 Feb

Everything is cancelled today because of the snow. You can look out and tell that we’re getting walloped, not just because of the rate that it’s falling, but from the color of the sky. Know when you look up when it’s snowing and the sky is as white as the snow? As I look up today, the sky is a hushed, sullen, morbid grey and looks to be dislodging all that’s impacting within itself down to topography that happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Welcome to the dive.

When I was making a living as one of the sullen rats who stared at a monitor and typed poor code within 5×5 white cubicles, Mark was one of the few highlights I ever knew in those wretched days. Not only did he talk music enough to keep up with me, he bestowed upon me a gift that very few ever could – he held my head under the waters of a new genre that I had only a tenuous inking of. When I found my footing again, I was newly baptized into the frenzy of Garage Rock.

It was Mark that turned me on to the Sonics : Strychnine, the Leaves : Hey Joe, the Shadows of Knight : Bad Little Woman, early Raiders : (I’m Not Your) Steppin Stone, the Seeds : Pushin’ Too Hard, 13th Floor Elevators : You’re Gonna Miss Me, Adrian Lloyd : Lorna (a must hear that even today, has my heart rupturing), the whole Nuggets collection and the delicious Sixties Rebellion collection, and countless other growling denizens of the garage. The music reached out its steely claws, encapsulated my neck and vibrated my skull with such vigor that as I look back now I believe that I spent close to a year passionately embracing, and collecting, the Garage Band era. As any other music whore could tell you, sometimes you listen to something so powerfully beguiling, that quite unexpectedly, the siren has completely wrapped you into its fold, nested you within, and before you know it – a year has gone by before you are able to loosen its grip and pull away. Such was my time in the jaws of garage. Anybody else ever get the fever that bad?

garageRather than spending phrases on an obscure influential raunchy slice of rock or lament over a balladeer who slays with emotion, I’m presenting someone who is noticeable, who had a hit, and who was there through the pulsing early strobe lights, who played all the beer-encrusted table tops of small halls, who was there watching the mini skirted, calf-booted, fringe swirling vests of teeny boppers, and helped to form and popularize the sound that enlisted thousands of kids with encouragement that they too could form a band.

Sir Douglas Quintet, with the inimitable Doug Sahm, had the quintessential lineup of guitar, drums, bass and organ that was permeated throughout the mid-sixties. Easy, yes? But what came out of that lineup was beautiful, headstrong bliss. They were based out of Texas and had a wide pallet of musical influences siphoned into their minds from that area including Tex-Mex, psychedelic, blues, pop and soul. Out of the maelstrom came what they are more known for, 1965’s ‘She’s About A Mover’, which hit #13, and the 1968 hit ‘Mendocino’, which I favor more.

It’s all I need; nodding rhythm, a pulsing Vox organ, catchy hook and easy enough for any garage aspiring teenage band to play as long as their willing to learn four basic chords.

Not to downplay my selection, but I can’t help but include the video I found showing the stark and silly juxtaposition of the band playing on, of all things, Hugh Hefner’s show ‘After Dark’! What, what? It includes a brief pre-performance interview.

Sadly, Doug Sahm died in 1999. In his sleep. Not a bad way to go is what a lot of us think. But, feast on this track from a band that was shoulder deep in the buzz, excitement and glory of the movement, and who helped to inspire legions of makeshift bands that drove their parents crazy, who felt like rock stars must have felt and had that taste of splendor that could only be had by being in a garage band.

And before I forget, thank you Mark for causing me to spend all that time listening to garage bands.

Sir Douglas Quintet: Mendocino