Posts Tagged ‘The Four Tops’

In 2014 I heroically listened to every album Prince ever made. Well, I heroically came close. I listened to the first 14. I will eventually listen to the remaining 987. This was an exciting, enlightening quest for which I received 100% zero thanks. I didn’t get a link from Wikipedia. I didn’t get a lousy T-shirt from Prince. And, as always, WordPress refused to give me any money.

I remain undeterred. Why? Because it says BLOGGER on my uniform! So today I jump on my new project, the project I should’ve jumped on before I jumped on Prince: the black music of the 1970s. But first: The Rules!

Rule 1: Provincialism is good. I’m disqualifying 98% of planet Earth. Once you dive into my unscientific survey you’ll discover that almost all of these performers are from the USA. That’s because I’m from the USA. USA! USA!

Rule 2: One-hit wonders are blunders. The 1970s were a magnet for the truly awful (that was somehow spectacularly popular). For every passable tune such as Jean Knight and “Mr. Big Stuff” you get a dumpster full of this:

Billy Paul, “Me and Mrs. Jones”
Peaches & Herb, “Reunited”
Labelle, “Lady Marmalade”*
Anita Ward, “Ring My Bell”
A Taste of Honey, “Boogie Oogie Oogie”**
Hues Corporation, “Rock the Boat”
Carl Douglas, “Kung Fu Fighting”***

* This is the “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, c’est soir” song.
** I hate to put them on this list, because they were an early girl-power band with two female guitarists. Also, they looked most excellent in backless swimsuits. But their song sucks.
*** According to legend, “Kung Fu Fighting” was recorded in 10 minutes. Of course it was.

Rule 3: I make the tough calls! Reggae was obviously a vital part of the ’70s – it was a huge influence on British punk – but I don’t care for reggae so you won’t find it here. I like the blues but there’s no blues on my list because after half an hour it’s not the blues, it’s whining. There’s no rap because, while I like some rap, I don’t understand it.

Even within the genres I like – rock, psychedelia, disco, soul, R&B – I’ll have to leave out some fun people to make sure I can get through this project before 2250 A.D. Here are two:

  • Eddie Kendricks, who sang lead on The Temptations’ “Just My Imagination” and had a solo hit with “Keep on Truckin’.”
  • Johnny “Guitar” Watson, who played blues, jazz, and funk but is probably best remembered for that sentimental lament, “A Real Mother for Ya.”

Rule 4: I’m sure to forget somebody. I only remembered The Spinners about 5 minutes ago.

This list I’m about to unleash is not exhaustive, though it’s exhausting me. I might not make it past 1974. But here goes.

The ’70s begin!

On the starting line we have:

  • Marvin Gaye and worthy but lesser satellites: Al Green, Bill Withers, Donny Hathaway
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Diana Ross, but not The Supremes
  • Quincy Jones
  • Ray Charles
  • James Brown
  • George Clinton
  • Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, and Barry White
  • The Jackson 5, The Isley Brothers, and other notable families
  • Aretha Franklin
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Sly & The Family Stone
  • Ike & Tina Turner
  • Gladys Knight & The Pips
  • Earth, Wind & Fire and Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
  • Rufus (featuring Chaka Khan)
  • The Four Tops
  • The Spinners
  • The Temptations

Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder were at their height in the ’70s, and their height is somewhere north of the Matterhorn. I could write about them and never get to anyone else.

Diana Ross released 17 albums in the ’70s. (First on this list is James Brown’s brain-busting 28.) She played Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues. She recorded duets with Marvin Gaye. Like a true diva, Diana Ross can’t be ignored. But I can ignore her former co-workers. This was not their decade.

I am mostly going to ignore Quincy Jones. Sure, Jones can compose, arrange, produce, conduct, and play. He brought out the best in the senior-citizen Frank Sinatra and the young-adult Michael Jackson. “Killer Joe” is one of my favorite jazz standards. But almost everything I like about him comes before 1970 or after 1979. I’m only going to mention Jones once, for an album I’m not recommending, and I hope the Lords of Kobol will forgive me.

Did Ray Charles do more in the ’70s than make those dopey commercials for Scotch Brand recording tape? Run-DMSteve investigates!

Everyone on this list owes something to James Brown. Everyone who isn’t on this list owes something to James Brown, even if they were born in a galaxy far, far away. Soul Brother #1 began the decade with the 11-minute “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,” a song that added substantially to my knowledge of how to deal with women (building on what I’d learned from Capt. Kirk and a stolen copy of South Pacific).

Brown ran out of fissionable uranium by mid-decade. His disco resurgence in 1979 doesn’t count.

George Clinton’s bands were Funkadelic and Parliament. After reacquainting myself with the few songs I knew and listening to the many I didn’t, I see him now as the secret weapon of the ’70s. Clinton has suffered the most from the way white radio playlists, particularly the Oldies and Classic Rock formats, exclude black artists.

We’ll get to Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway, Barry White, and Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and Quincy Jones again when we dive into the deep end of the Shaft/Super Fly machismo pool.

The Jackson 5 were the best family act of any color of any era. Their only contenders are Don and Phil Everly, and I think that’s a very close race. (The Isley Brothers are right behind them. Two more challengers popped up in the ’70s: The Pointer Sisters and The Staple Singers.) The J5 were superior to Sister Sledge, The Osmonds, The Carpenters, The Cowsills, The Partridge Family (OK, that’s cheating), the von Trapps, and everyone who has ever appeared on Lawrence Welk.

Jimi Hendrix existed in the ’70s for about nine months. His early death is the second-greatest tragedy in the history of pop music. (Mozart’s early death is first.)

With Aretha Franklin, it’s always 1967, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You is on the turntable, and you’re about to drop the needle on the first track, “Respect.” I can’t imagine the pressure this woman faced at the age of 25 with “Respect” heading her résumé. Bruce Springsteen faced the same pressure when he was 25 and had just recorded “Born to Run.”

Sylvester Stewart, aka Sly Stone, is mostly known for the music he gave us in the ’60s. By the time he got to the ’70s, his revolutionary zeal had congealed. Sadly, so had his optimism. Sly & The Family Stone’s last great album, There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971), is as confused, cynical, and hard to listen to as The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street (1972). The main difference between the two is that Stone was apathetic. The Stones were sleazy.

Sly Stone fun fact: You could transfer “Just Like a Baby” from There’s a Riot Goin’ On to Exile on Main Street and nobody would know the difference.

Most of Ike and Tina Turner’s music evaporates while you listen to it. For every “Proud Mary” or “River Deep – Mountain High” they have 20 songs that are guaranteed not to stick to your ribs. But we needed The Ike & Tina Turner Revue because they created the image of Tina Turner as a force majeure. Ms. Turner gave us one good record on her own (Private Dancer), but that’s off in the ’80s.

Gladys Knight & The Pips recorded the first version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” a hymn that could make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window. In the ’70s they recorded “Midnight Train to Georgia.” I still want to kick them.

Earth, Wind & Fire were just getting started and didn’t know what they wanted to be when they grew up. Same with Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes.

Rufus was funky for sure, but they’re not as good as their contemporaries War. But they’re important for giving Chaka Khan a launching pad. Khan has a voice like Tina Turner’s, with less power but more finesse at close range.

The Four Tops’ many classics are all from the ’60s. In the ’70s they recorded two albums with The Supremes (minus Diana Ross), The Magnificent Seven and The Return of the Magnificent Seven. Not enough of a draw to make me listen. Sorry kids, but as I’ve stated many times in this blog I am paid to be unfair. All right, I’m not paid, but I’m still unfair.

The Spinners have left little behind them besides the image of five guys in yummy-colored pantsuits. But they had a run of hits in the early ’70s, starting with “It’s a Shame,” which I always thought was Al Green until I finally looked it up. Duh. However, I don’t care for the rest of their easy-listening catalog, and they gave us the gift of “The Rubberband Man,” which is clearly related to the crud back in Rule 2, so though they meant well they disappear as soon as this sentence hits the period.

The Temptations recorded “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” in 1972. This was another show-stopper written by Norman Whitfield. The Temptations could’ve stopped right there. But they didn’t, and neither will I. I’ll be back next time with: Blaxploitation!


The Best of Rare Earth
20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection
Rare Earth

[Editor’s note: Last week I took on Prince’s Parade. Next up is Sign ‘o’ the Times, which requires more thought. Also, the World Series is about to start. While I’m doing all this extra thinking about Prince and baseball let’s take a look at a much simpler topic.]

Rare Earth was a white Motown group with three superpowers:

  • They were expert interpreters of black R&B.
  • Their drummer, who was 3’ taller than anyone else in the band, was a terrific soul-shouter.
  • They began every song like they owned the world.

Unfortunately, they had a fourth power: a knack for getting lost three minutes into every song. They were like the party guest who never knows when to go home. This talent is most apparent on their cover of “What I Say.” For the first three minutes they run Ray Charles right off the road. They played another four minutes. They shouldn’t have.

The Best of Rare Earth is a disc for the most passionate Rare Earth fan. That’s why the first song is not their powerful three-minute hit, “Get Ready” (1969). No, it’s the 21-minute wall of blubber that the hit was carved from, like a burger from a buffalo. I can’t believe that anyone other than a specialist would willingly listen to this track more than once. I have – when my friend Jeff invited me over to his house one day after high school, and again last week when the CD arrived from A 500-year interval is about right.

OK, so Rare Earth was long-winded. The late-’60s/early ’70s was a time of gusty musical winds. How do our boys stack up against their contemporaries?

  • They lack the discipline of The Byrds (the live version of “Eight Miles High”), The Rolling Stones (“Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’ ”), and Santana (“Black Magic Woman”).
  • They’re loose like Creedence Clearwater Revival (“I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Susie Q”), but they can’t bring things to a satisfying close the way Creedence can.
  • However, they don’t play funeral marches like Mountain (“Nantucket Sleighride”) or psychedelic plasmodium like Steppenwolf (“Magic Carpet Ride”) or Quicksilver Messenger Service (“The Fool”).
  • Their musicianship is superior to Iron Butterfly (“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”) and The Grateful Dead (just about anything).

Actually, they remind me of The Allman Brothers, even though the Allmans are closer to the blues and Rare Earth is closer to jazz. Neither group knows when to cry “Hold, enough!”

[Editor’s note: All of these bands are better than Yes.]

Racial profiling
I have serious trouble with six Caucasians singing an ode to their African-American swamp mama in the album’s closer, “Ma.” Nevermind that it’s 17 frakking minutes long. Forget the lyrics. (Ma raised 13 kids on her own, but always sent them to church because that’s what Pa would’ve wanted? Pa only showed up once a year for sex, but he was religious? Which religion? Ma should’ve shot him 12 kids ago.) The dudes in Rare Earth are white. They didn’t grow up in a shack and their lives were never restricted by the color of their skin. Why don’t they sing something from The Sound of Music?

Surely Universal could’ve used the space hogged by “Ma” for the radio edit of “Get Ready” and maybe some other track from Rare Earth’s best effort, Rare Earth in Concert (1971), which came in a cardboard sleeve that looked like a hippie’s knapsack.

Summing up
The Best of Rare Earth gives us “I Just Want to Celebrate,” “Born to Wander,” and “Hey Big Brother,” which fit just fine in any Classic Rock rotation. If you can handle all 11 minutes, “(I Know) I’m Losing You” is rewarding. It’s slower than but similar to the Temptations’ hit “Ball of Confusion.” Rare Earth’s producer, the late Mr. Norman Whitfield, co-wrote both tunes, as well as “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.” (And “Ma.” Anyone can have an off-night.)

Rare Earth rocks harder than Blood, Sweat & Tears and plays better than J. Geils. You can go straight from Rare Earth to any jazz-fusion outfit of the 1970s. Give them a try. But be ready to push Skip.

Today’s Randoms: 1968 Jazz Edition
OK everybody. Here’s some vocabulary to help you talk like a jazz critic!

Set: The songs (or cuts) you intend to record.
Reading: Your cover of somebody else’s cut.
Date: If you record the cuts at a concert or all in one day, it’s a date.
Platter: The medium on which you record the set. Also called “sides.”
Wax: You wax the set onto the platter. As in “The best set he ever waxed!”
Lay down a groove: Play your part in a song so it can get waxed onto a platter.
Burner: Any Hammond B3 organist who waxes a funky platter has laid down a burner.

Frank Foster, Manhattan Fever
Fascinating sides from Foster, who played for years with Count Basie and led the band after Basie’s death. On Manhattan Fever, you get jazz you can almost dance to, some great soloing from Foster on the tenor sax, experimental stuff I skip no matter whose name is on the cover, and amazing drumming from Mickey Roker. I want to have his baby. Foster waxed some funky titles: “What’s New From the Monster Mill,” “You Gotta Be Kiddin’,” and the killer cut “Little Miss No Nose.”

Jimmy McGriff, The Worm
Mr. McGriff played the Hammond B3 organ, so you know how I’m going to end this paragraph. The Worm is a funky, fun platter with many highlights, particularly the cuts “Keep Loose” and their reading of “Think,” which I only knew from Aretha Franklin’s performance in The Blues Brothers. (Aretha co-wrote the song.) “Girl Talk” is a slo-mo groove that deserved a good waxing. Nine musicians contributed to this set; the cumulative effect is of a swinging jazz orchestra. Burner!

Worth a mention
Hank Mobley, Reach Out!
Mobley led hard-bop marauders in dates with names like No Room for Squares (1963). They tried a more commercial sound for Reach Out! I can’t fault musicians who want to make some money for once, but I doubt the public tossed much bacon onto this platter. Mobley’s heart wasn’t in it.

But Reach Out! is notable for the band’s reading of The Four Tops hit of the same name – the only time I’ve heard anyone else give this cut a spin. Fun but klutzy, with people getting lost in the groove, particularly the drummer, who may have believed he was in another song. Lily Von Shtupp put it best in Blazing Saddles, when she complained that men were always “coming and going and going and coming…and always too soon!”


I almost included The Three Tenors. They’re not rock, obviously, but Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, and José Carreras are the premiere tenors of our time. When they’re together, everything they touch turns to gold. People would pay money to hear them sing “Who Let the Dogs Out?” But they never recorded “Who Let the Dogs Out?” and I finally decided against them. Also, I hate opera.

Let’s go 3!

3 Doors Down

3 Mustaphas 3
Paul Simon’s Graceland is as far as I go with “world music,” a term that covers every instrument and musical scale ever played that isn’t usually played in North America. If world music is your thing you’ll enjoy 3 Mustaphas 3, as the members seem to be having a lot of fun playing their various Dr. Seuss string-like things. I find that their singing sounds like the Minions from Despicable Me, but that’s probably my American provincialism speaking. suggests you start with Soup of the Century (1990). I suggest Graceland or The Rhythm of the Saints.

Pioneering rap-metal outfit that helped open the door for Korn and Limp Bizkit. Curse you, 311! Their 1994 hit “Down” is a marriage of rap and Nirvana. Their other hit from that year, “All Mixed Up,” is rap, metal, reggae, and jubilant all at once. That’s the one song I can recommend by 311.


Fun Boy Three

Loudon Wainwright III
I admit that this is cheating. The guy was born with that number, he didn’t pick it! But this gave me a chance to listen again to “Dead Skunk” (“Take a whiff on me that ain’t no rose/roll up yer window and hold yer nose”) and “Lullaby” (“Shut your mouth and button your lip/You’re a late-night faucet that’s got a drip”), two of folk-rock’s greatest achievements.

The Three O’Clock
Bands have been returning to their music’s roots since rock was old enough to grow roots. One such roots movement was “The Paisley Underground,” a loose grouping of early-’80s LA bands that loved the ‘60s. The Dream Syndicate loved The Velvet Underground. The Bangles loved The Mamas and the Papas. Rain Parade loved The Doors.

Then there was The Three O’Clock. (Their biggest fan: Prince.) They worshipped The Monkees and The Association, though to me they sound like their contemporaries The Go-Gos. Their best-known song and the one I like is “Jetfighter,” from Sixteen Tambourines (1983).

Third Eye Blind
They came along in the aftermath of grunge and produced hard rock for a hip college crowd that was thrilled to see them in concert and forgot all about them before they hit 30.

Best known for the catchy “Jumper” and the even catchier “Semi-Charmed Life” from their self-titled 1997 debut; the former is about talking a friend off a ledge, the latter is about trying to escape crystal meth. The suicide song sounds surprisingly upbeat, but the other is downright happy. The singer and his girlfriend are in love with meth and they feel fine, despite the bleak words they’re singing. I don’t know if this emotional disconnect is intentional. It’s definitely weird.

Third World War
No listing on, no music on Rhapsody, but a tantalyzing reference on Wikipedia, where I learned that these Brits formed a sort of proto-punk band in 1970 that produced two albums, toured Finland, and made no money. I found their song “Ascension” on YouTube – it sounds like Jethro Tull had an affair with Joe Cocker. I listened to a couple others, but while my interest declined I can understand why punk pioneers Joe Strummer and Henry Rollins cite Third World War as an influence.

Three Dog Night

Timbuk 3
Forever known for “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades,” which would’ve been perfect for Huey Lewis & The News. “Things are all right, and they’re only getting better,” Timbuk 3 sang on this 1987 release, and though things didn’t get better for them professionally they did turn out a pretty interesting record, Greetings From Timbuk 3 (check out “Facts About Cats,” “Just Another Movie,” and “Shame on You,” another good song for Huey if he had ever learned how to rap). Too bad that the glare from Timbuk 3’s one novelty number obscures the rest of their work.

4 Non Blondes
Joan Armatrading meets Guns N’ Roses with a hint of Heart. Their one album, Bigger, Better, Faster, More (1993), yielded the hit “What’s Up,” which is pleasant enough. 4 Non Blondes eventually featured six non-blondes, one of whom was a guy.

Bobby Fuller Four

Classics IV
Classics IV started out in life imitating The Four Seasons. That’s enough by itself to get them kicked out of this conversation. But they eventually produced three classics (there, I said it) of the ’60s, “Stormy,” “Spooky,” and “Traces.” (“I close my eyes and say a prayer/that in her heart she’ll find/a trace of love there…”)

If you were 12 or 13 as I was when these songs appeared, then like me you occasionally tune in to the Oldies station in the car and you don’t turn these off when they pop up in the rotation. The first slow dance I ever had was to “Traces.” Unless it was “Crimson & Clover.” Whatever the soundtrack was, once I was mashed up against a girl-type person I suddenly understood what everyone in rock was singing about.

Objectively speaking, these songs pretty much suck. “Spooky” is particularly nuts – the singer never knows what his girlfriend is going to do next. Check this out: He asks her if she wants to go to the movies and she says no. Then she rethinks her decision and says yes. Alfred Hitchcock could’ve made an entire movie out of these psychodynamics.

Perhaps because they recorded “Stormy” and “Spooky,” at one point they covered “Sunny.” That one’s not bad!

Four Bitchin’ Babes
Folk-comedy from a rotating cast of bitchin’ babes brought together by Christine Lavin. Their first album, which I have yet to hear, is Buy Me Bring Me Take Me: Don’t Mess My Hair!!! (1993). I’ve heard Fax It! Charge It! Don’t Ask Me What’s for Dinner! (1995), and it’s not all laughs on this disc, as in the first track, “My Mother’s Hands.”

Frankly I’m getting tired of all the folk music and world music on this list, and that includes our next contestants:

Four Men & a Dog
Irish boys playing Celtic music with an international flair. There have been more than four men in this lineup although only four at a time. The dog stays home. If the long-running radio program Thistle & Shamrock is your idea of a good time, you probably already have posters of Four Men & a Dog on your bedroom wall. (For years I wondered why that show only had one announcer, and if she was Ms. Thistle then where was Mr. Shamrock?)

Gang of Four

The Four Aces
Famous a cappella group of the early 1950s that were shot to pieces like a rural stop sign by rock ’n’ roll. I know I don’t get paid for writing this blog but somebody owes me something for listening to their two biggest hits, “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing” and “Three Coins in the Fountain.”

The Four Freshmen
We’re not exactly on a roll here with the number 4. The Four Freshmen are The Four Aces set to music. Eighteen freshmen have sung in their lineup, on such albums as Four Freshmen and Five Trombones, Four Freshmen and Five Trumpets, Four Freshmen and Five Saxes, Four Freshmen and Five Guitars, and Four Freshmen and Five Dr. Seuss String-like Things. Surprisingly, the band existed as a recording unit for six years before they thought of naming an album Freshmen Year.

The Four Fellows
See The Four Toppers.

The Four Havens
I thought this had something to do with Richie Havens and his family, but I was wrong. I’ve heard one track, “One Note Too High,” from somewhere in the 1950s. It’s an uneasy clash of R&B and doo wop. I think they were on to something interesting here but it’s impossible to judge from one song and no context.

The Four Horsemen
Obscure metal act of the early 1990s in which everyone went to jail or died. If they’re known for anything, that thing is “Rockin’ Is Ma’ Business,” which would’ve been done far better by AC/DC. In fact AC/DC can do everything they can do backwards and in high heels. However, for a while the Horsemen had a punk/metal drummer named Chuck Biscuits, which is the second-best drummer name of all time (the #1 spot is still held by punk pioneer Spit Stix).

The Four Seasons
Awhile back I read Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, in which the hero spends 50 pages at the bottom of a dry well. In the dark. I’d rather reread those pages than listen to The Four Seasons.

But, because I am always fair and balanced, I must note that this bland, boring steamroller has been playing and touring and selling records for 50 years. The British Invasion, funk, reggae, disco, punk, grunge, rap, and Lady Gaga have all tried to kill The Four Seasons and all of them have failed. The Four Seasons will still be playing, touring, and selling their bland, boring records 50 years from now (and you can bet your download device of choice that I’ll still be complaining about them).

The Four Seasons’ lineup of past and present members stands at about 40. They will catch 101 Strings sometime before the bicentennial of the Civil War in 2061.

The Four Tops
They’ve lasted just as long as The Four Seasons and they’ve done it with only five guys. Long list of hits, particularly when Holland-Dozier-Holland was feeding them material in the mid-’60s, but my favorite has always been “River Deep, Mountain High” from 1971 (recorded with The Supremes’ survivors after Diana Ross left).

The Four Toppers
Early ’50s singing group that basically broke up when half of them were drafted during the Korean War. They transformed into The Four Fellows on their return. They’re worth remembering because Fellow David Jones wrote “Soldier Boy” while serving in Korea.

Tomorrow night: Rikki. Don’t lose that number, OK?


Superheavy (I’m already tired of typing that) is a supergroup with the following super members:

Joss Stone – English soul singer with super hair.
Damian Marley – Reggae musician and son of Bob Marley. Also has super hair.
Dave Stewart – With Annie Lennox, he was The Eurythmics.
A.R. Rahman – Indian composer of film and orchestral music.
Mick Jagger – Whoever this guy is, he does a pretty good impersonation of Mick Jagger, even better than Billy Idol’s impersonation of Billy Idol in The Wedding Singer.

This cross-pollinization of cultures and genres fails to germinate, except for the track “I Can’t Take It No More,” which is almost bearable. The other songs fade from memory while you’re listening to them. Despite its super-heavy origins, Superheavy is nowhere near as good as Soundgarden’s Superunknown, Wayne Shorter’s Super Nova, or Rick James’ “Super Freak.” I’m willing to bet it’s inferior to Liberace’s Super Hits, but I’m unwilling to do the research to find out.

Cover of the Week
Eels is a one-name underground indie god best known for “Novacaine for the Soul.” I was surprised to discover his cover of The Left Banke’s “Pretty Ballerina,” but I guess you’re never too cool for ’60s pop. Eels retains The Left Banke’s baroque string flourishes, but he speeds things up (his version is about 15 seconds shorter) while plinking away on what sounds like Schroeder’s toy piano. The original featured a male falsetto; Eels is quite hoarse. He sings “Pretty Ballerina” to a crowd that not only doesn’t laugh him off the stage, they cheer. I did too.

“Pretty Ballerina” was released in 1967 when I was a dreamy 12-year-old who didn’t know the difference between love and lust. It took me decades to figure that one out. Hearing the original always zaps me back to junior high, so I’m relieved to have Eels’ tough-love interpretation to drag me home.

The Left Banke had another, even bigger hit with “Walk Away, Renee.” The Four Tops covered this one, though on the chorus they sound like they’re channeling the Baha Men (“Who Let the Dogs Out?”). Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy on Adieu False Heart combined their beautiful voices on “Walk Away, Renee.” It’s too gorgeous – as much as I love this song, I have to say that The Left Banke don’t deserve it!

Fans of ridiculous pop bands that experiment with classical music are asking themselves right now, Should I go back to The Left Banke’s catalog and see what I missed all those years ago? No you should not. This time I did do the research. I can report that “Barterers and Their Wives” is a mildly entertaining juxtaposition of classical music and psychedelia. One song will surprise you: “What Do You Know.” It’s country, there are two guys singing instead of the usual high-pitched male lead, and they’re both slightly flat. I can’t tell if this was meant as a joke.

Steve of the Week
I forgot to list my latest post at The Nervous Breakdown! I write about typewriters, mimeos, and other machines that once decided the fate of empires. I hope they are not coming back.

Kristin of the Week
My friend Kristin Thiel is reading with two other writers on Friday, October 7 at Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W Burnside, here in Portland (our fair city). This event is part of Wordstock, you philistines. Kristin and her colleagues all have stories in a new anthology I can’t wait to read, Men Undressed: Women Writers and the Male Sexual Experience. I’m certainly going to be at Powell’s on October 7. I’m hoping Kristin can clear up a few issues for me.