From The Desk Of The Feelies’ Dave Weckerman: Maynard G. Krebs

Percussionist Dave Weckerman has been part of the Feelies story since 1976 when he, Glenn Mercer and Bill Million formed the Outkids, which quickly evolved into the Feelies. Following the release of seminal 1980 debut Crazy Rhythms, the group went on a sort of short-lived hiatus, though the band members played together in a number of offshoots, including the Trypes, the Willies and Yung Wu. 1987’s Shore Leave was the sole album by Yung Wu, which featured Weckerman as singer/songwriter backed by Mercer, Million and fellow Feelies Brenda Sauter and Stan Demeski. The long-out-of-print Shore Leave has just been reissued by Bar/None, so we asked Weckerman to guest edit magnetmagazine.com. He said yes and will be writing about “some favorite things and cultural touchstones in my life (so far)” all week.

Weckerman: From the Dobie Gillis show. Maynard was a bongo-playing beatnik who shunned work and Tuesday Weld. Long before I heard the names Ginsberg, Kerouac or Burroughs. Of course, Maynard was really actor Bob Denver, who would go on to further fame as Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island.

Dobie Gillis seemed like a rip off of the Archie comic crew. Maynard was a hipster version of Jughead, Dobie was Archie and Thalia Menninger was like Betty.

From The Desk Of The Feelies’ Dave Weckerman: Davy Crockett Craze (1955)

Percussionist Dave Weckerman has been part of the Feelies story since 1976 when he, Glenn Mercer and Bill Million formed the Outkids, which quickly evolved into the Feelies. Following the release of seminal 1980 debut Crazy Rhythms, the group went on a sort of short-lived hiatus, though the band members played together in a number of offshoots, including the Trypes, the Willies and Yung Wu. 1987’s Shore Leave was the sole album by Yung Wu, which featured Weckerman as singer/songwriter backed by Mercer, Million and fellow Feelies Brenda Sauter and Stan Demeski. The long-out-of-print Shore Leave has just been reissued by Bar/None, so we asked Weckerman to guest edit magnetmagazine.com. He said yes and will be writing about “some favorite things and cultural touchstones in my life (so far)” all week.

Weckerman: This was my first brain-washing by popular culture. Had all the accouterments and slept in my coonskin hat. My mother had difficulty explaining to me that Fess Parker was merely a paid actor. It was short-lived phenomenon, but every kid in America seemed to be wearing a buckskin outfit. I probably slept in those clothes for a month. It was the first popular youth craze before hula hoops, the Twist and the Beatles.

From The Desk Of Brother JT: Elk City

For a good stretch during the late ’80s/early ’90s, the John Terlesky-fronted, garage-rocking Original Sins were poised to be one of indie rock’s next big things. Despite a string of excellent LPs, that never happened for the pride of Bethlehem, Pa., who disbanded in 1999. Prior to the breakup, Terlesky started releasing more experimental records as Brother JT, and they, too, have been stellar. JT keeps his winning streak alive with the new Tornado Juice (Thrill Jockey), produced by Ray Ketchem (Luna, Okkervil River), who also manned the boards for 1996 Original Sins classic Bethlehem. The good Brother will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week, tornado juice not included.

JT: I was 20 in 1982, but don’t ask me about the synth-pop hits of the day or even post-punk. I was more enamored of the jangly guitars of ’60s-inspired Paisley Underground acts like Rain Parade and Green On Red. Maybe because, unlike the pose-centric haircut bands, you could still hear echoes of fuzzy idealism in their often-borrowed grooves, and a tendency toward inclusion rather than pretense in their ragtag sentiments. I miss that that naive quality in a lot of music these days, given the trend toward icy ’80s nostalgia.

Which may be why I’ve grown fond of Elk City‘s latest recording, Everybody’s Insecure, on Bar/None Records. It’s not that the Montclair, N.J., band calls to mind the Paisley groups musically per se; indeed, as a pre-release single they chose to do a fairly reverent cover of the Motels’ early ’80s MTV hit “Suddenly Last Summer” (a song I’m not sure ever made it through the garage haze I was in at the time), and I could see it fitting in fairly seamlessly with their live set.

What wins me over is the air of ingenuousness that pervades the tracks, personified by singer/songwriter Renée LoBue. Her songs tip-toe a tightrope between the dreamily child-like and the slightly haunted, both musically and lyrically. The melodies begin to glow with repeated spinnings, and her prettily deadpan vocals—something like a more tuneful Maureen Tucker or a sweeter Karen O—invite you to an intimate tête-à-tête about sparrows, mouths full of sun and “Root Beer Shoes.”

Drummer/producer Ray Ketchem keeps things smooth and warm, befitting the material, and Luna alumnus Sean Eden colors in the spaces with a nice variety of shimmering, chiming guitar textures. But it’s LoBue’s openness of spirit that will bring me back to Everybody’s Insecure when searching for that old Paisley feeling.

From The Desk Of Brother JT: Kim Fowley’s “Lord Of Garbage”

For a good stretch during the late ’80s/early ’90s, the John Terlesky-fronted, garage-rocking Original Sins were poised to be one of indie rock’s next big things. Despite a string of excellent LPs, that never happened for the pride of Bethlehem, Pa., who disbanded in 1999. Prior to the breakup, Terlesky started releasing more experimental records as Brother JT, and they, too, have been stellar. JT keeps his winning streak alive with the new Tornado Juice (Thrill Jockey), produced by Ray Ketchem (Luna, Okkervil River), who also manned the boards for 1996 Original Sins classic Bethlehem. The good Brother will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week, tornado juice not included.

JT: When a friend gave me a copy of this, I was mentally salivating over the prospect of all the great stories Fowley could tell about his several-decade reign over the scuzzy, Hollywood record-biz underworld. And this little tome is not short on stories, no sir. From encountering John Garfield, cocaine and a hooker in his room (at age six) to dashing off a song for Jimi Hendrix (deathless classic “Fluffy Turkeys”), the ADHD-style tall-tales spill out so fast and furious that the snapshots he’s taken come off a bit blurry. Sizable leaps, from being a polio-afflicted child of two b-actors to becoming a teen gang member, to suddenly working as a promoter and producing hit records, are often handled in a sentence or two of impatient exposition. “Scattershot” is the word that comes to mind.

An ass-ton of names are dropped along the way; this guy had dealings with the likes of Thelonious Monk, Phil Spector, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Brian Jones, Keith Moon, Jimmy Page—he knew everybody. But the names are largely all we get, without much further insight. As a reader, I kept wanting to stop the torrent of anecdotes long enough to find out what he made of these icons as people. Or how his creative process worked. Or just something a little more, er, substantial.

But then this is Kim Fowley’s story—substance is no more the point than it was when he waxed the “Worst Record Ever Made” or reduced Tchaikovsky to “Nut Rocker.” He knows what you want and he’s not going to give it up because he is the eternal mutant teenage punk huckster. “Part of me is pretty astute, the other part of me is a moron, and the other part of me is a madman” is what passes for self-analysis, but even that tidbit seems like a major admission.

Once I got past the fact that it was not going to be just another rock n’ roll tell-all, I could just lay back and wallow in what a perversely fun a read it was. Like the childhood poems that comment on the prose, the whole manuscript is a pop-art/expressionist collage, the more haphazard and questionable in its veracity the better. Who said that thing about art being a lie that tells the truth? Gene Vincent, I think (who is actually covered in some detail here).

Don’t expect to read anything about his controversial dealings with the Runaways; this book covers only the first third or so of his career, and Fowley died in 2015 before he could complete any further volumes. Such as it is, Lord Of Garbage is a shaky pixelvision of an insane era. It refuses to take itself seriously and, in so doing, manages to be both completely disposable and slightly irresistible—a scratchy, two-minute-novelty-45 of a book.

From The Desk Of Brother JT: John Martyn’s “Solid Air”

For a good stretch during the late ’80s/early ’90s, the John Terlesky-fronted, garage-rocking Original Sins were poised to be one of indie rock’s next big things. Despite a string of excellent LPs, that never happened for the pride of Bethlehem, Pa., who disbanded in 1999. Prior to the breakup, Terlesky started releasing more experimental records as Brother JT, and they, too, have been stellar. JT keeps his winning streak alive with the new Tornado Juice (Thrill Jockey), produced by Ray Ketchem (Luna, Okkervil River), who also manned the boards for 1996 Original Sins classic Bethlehem. The good Brother will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week, tornado juice not included.

JT: I’m generally not much of a fan of pure musical forms. Traditional folk, jazz, blues all seem too rigid in their structures for my taste; when I’m pretty sure what the next chord change is going to be, my mind starts to wander. It’s when the lines are blurred and rules disregarded that my ears prick up.

That’s what happened when I recently discovered John Martyn. The English singer/guitarist, who passed on in 2009, came up in the late ’60s U.K. folk scene as a contemporary and friend of Nick Drake. His early work, while displaying fine guitar technique and thoughtful songwriting, was standard acoustic folk fare, with only a few hints of the strangeness to come.

It wasn’t until Martyn started collaborating with upright bass player Danny Thompson that he found his real sound, one where strictures were loosened, genres blended and vocals slurred to the point of resembling a spacier, occasionally incoherent Van Morrison. Maybe best heard on 1973’s Solid Air, Martyn woozily drifted from genre to genre, taking the best aspects of folk craft, jazzy improv and raw blues (a wigged out take on Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman” evolved into an echoplex-driven exploration that wouldn’t sound out too out of place on Bitches Brew) and fashioning something new and bewitching out of them.

But it might be Martyn’s bedeviled personality itself that is the real secret sauce here. “I Don’t Want To Know” verges on ’70s MOR balladry until he slips in a line about “Waiting for the planes to tumble/Waiting for the towns to fall”; no matter how seductive the musical trappings, darkness is never too far from the surface in the man’s work, reflecting his often troubled life. Things would get weirder—1975’s Inside Out flirts with ambient psychedelia—but in terms of creating a truly original hybrid of smooth grooves and rough emotion, Solid Air is one of a kind.

From The Desk Of Brother JT: WMFU

For a good stretch during the late ’80s/early ’90s, the John Terlesky-fronted, garage-rocking Original Sins were poised to be one of indie rock’s next big things. Despite a string of excellent LPs, that never happened for the pride of Bethlehem, Pa., who disbanded in 1999. Prior to the breakup, Terlesky started releasing more experimental records as Brother JT, and they, too, have been stellar. JT keeps his winning streak alive with the new Tornado Juice (Thrill Jockey), produced by Ray Ketchem (Luna, Okkervil River), who also manned the boards for 1996 Original Sins classic Bethlehem. The good Brother will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week, tornado juice not included.

JT: One of the fringe benefits of going into NYC to play (one of the few, come to think of it) used to be coming into the range of 91.1 on the FM dial and listening to the legendary WFMU. It somehow helped make tunnel traffic more bearable to hear an obscure Monkees track juxtaposed with a Senegalese folk song followed by some free jazz. (One time at the height of rush-hour stress mayhem, I remember Ray Stevens’ “Everything Is Beautiful” coming on at just the right moment and everyone in the car busting out laughing—it’s like they knew.) You knew you were going to hear stuff you’d never dreamed existed whenever you tuned in and always be a little wistful when driving out of range and the signal turned to static.

Of course in these days of streaming, you don’t have to be anywhere near Jersey City in order to enjoy the diverse offerings of America’s longest-running freeform radio station. There are any number of ways to access the station via its website or various apps or platforms or whatever the young’uns call it.

All I know is that I can tap my phone a few times and check out of the bland, risk-free Facebook feed that passes for reality for a while and re-experience the surprise of hearing something that jars my perspective on what music is or could be. That’s largely due to the fact that WFMU’s DJ staff is comprised of musical obsessives and collectors, folks whose lives revolve around finding the most obscure, challenging recordings possible and presenting them in a tasteful, intelligent manner. It’s like stumbling upon the weirdest jukebox in the world and some kindly, informative stranger is providing the quarters.

And sure, you can find just about anything on YouTube, but there’s a great difference between searching for songs consciously versus hearing something exceptional out of the blue, followed by another and another. It somehow adds to the experience that a real aficionado is offering this up to a fellow traveler down the foggy road of musical curiosity. In an era of timid media and dead ends, WMFU remains a welcome signpost for the truly adventurous.

From The Desk Of Brother JT: John Wesley Coleman III

For a good stretch during the late ’80s/early ’90s, the John Terlesky-fronted, garage-rocking Original Sins were poised to be one of indie rock’s next big things. Despite a string of excellent LPs, that never happened for the pride of Bethlehem, Pa., who disbanded in 1999. Prior to the breakup, Terlesky started releasing more experimental records as Brother JT, and they, too, have been stellar. JT keeps his winning streak alive with the new Tornado Juice (Thrill Jockey), produced by Ray Ketchem (Luna, Okkervil River), who also manned the boards for 1996 Original Sins classic Bethlehem. The good Brother will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week, tornado juice not included.

JT: Despite the advent of DJs and karaoke, bar bands are still a thing. There’s something elemental about stumbling into a dive, ordering a beer and being subjected to ramshackle jams served up by musicians who set up on the floor; no stage, no light show, just music that hopefully gets wilder as the empty shot glasses mount. At a time when so much we know of musical performance is about elimination of risk, bar-band habitues thrive on the likelihood of mistakes, scuffles and the occasional moment of brilliance. You don’t really know what’s going to happen.

John Wesley Coleman‘s music seems made to be played in bars. Listen to songs from 2017’s Microwave Dreams, and you can practically smell the spilled beer and cigarette smoke. That’s not to say the long-time veteran of the Austin scene is singing about “working for the weekend” or building towns on rock ‘n’ roll (though he has been known to pull out a cover of Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns And Money”). Behind the growling garage-rock guitars and stripped-down drums, you’ll find raucous, sometimes funny songs sung by a man simultaneously amused and nonplussed by what the world has shown him.

You have to give props to anyone with song titles like “Jesus Never Went To Junior High,” “Box O’ Donuts” and “Life Is Not Worth Living And Suicide Is A Waste Of Time,” and those are just drops in the bucket of a 15-album solo career; you can dip in anywhere and get about the same taste, like homemade moonshine. But for the full Wes Coleman experience, you need to the see the man live, preferably in a small bar. He might be a ball of punk-rock fire and he might fall over—possibly both. You don’t really know what’s going to happen.

From The Desk Of Brother JT: “Too Beautiful To Live”

For a good stretch during the late ’80s/early ’90s, the John Terlesky-fronted, garage-rocking Original Sins were poised to be one of indie rock’s next big things. Despite a string of excellent LPs, that never happened for the pride of Bethlehem, Pa., who disbanded in 1999. Prior to the breakup, Terlesky started releasing more experimental records as Brother JT, and they, too, have been stellar. JT keeps his winning streak alive with the new Tornado Juice (Thrill Jockey), produced by Ray Ketchem (Luna, Okkervil River), who also manned the boards for 1996 Original Sins classic Bethlehem. The good Brother will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week, tornado juice not included.

JT: I’ve had a lot of driving jobs because I can’t be around people too much—you know, my antennae are stuck in the “up” position, etc. So in pre-internet/satellite days, radio was a big deal to me. I’d listen to NPR for its general intelligence and lack of commercials, but found the relentless tone of seriousness to be wearying eventually. “I wish,” I’d say to myself, “there was a ‘fun’ version of NPR, where fairly smart people loosened up and talked about whatever: ’80’s pop culture, their favorite taqueria, what the dog did” (i.e., the minutiae of life).

It only took a few decades and the advent of podcasting to find a pretty close approximation to my wish. Too Beautiful To Live, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary, is, indeed, hosted by a veteran of NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me game show, Luke Burbank, along with his lovably neurotic co-host and fellow talk-radio alumni Andrew Walsh. Like NPR, the podcast is well-recorded and produced, but that’s where the similarity ends. Five days a week, these affable nerds get together and talk for about an hour about their lives in the Pacific Northwest: diet plans, squabbles with neighbors, “sport ball,” playing pull-tabs at the Eagles Club, all interspersed with copious audio drops and tangents that go nowhere. And somehow it all works, very well.

Aside from being naturally funny and quick-witted, Burbank/Walsh’s success is all about tone. They keep things both light and snarky, walking the line between being sort of hip and painfully self-conscious about hipness (and everything really), while remaining the chief target of their own humor. Maybe the most remarkable and endearing trait of TBTL is the genuine good vibes that exist between the hosts even after 2,500 shows together.

Do they get annoying? Oh my, yes. Their oversensitivity to, well, sensitivity and always being seen as PC can eventually be a little tiresome, but that’s probably a generational thing, me being an old codger and all. And a lot of times I just have it on in the background and tune out when the topics are local or uninteresting and catch up later.

Even as ambient entertainment, though, it’s kind of nice to know they are there, yapping away about nothing in particular, a comforting buzz that says you’re among friends, if only the virtual variety.

From The Desk Of Brother JT: Nina Simone Live At Montreux 1976

For a good stretch during the late ’80s/early ’90s, the John Terlesky-fronted, garage-rocking Original Sins were poised to be one of indie rock’s next big things. Despite a string of excellent LPs, that never happened for the pride of Bethlehem, Pa., who disbanded in 1999. Prior to the breakup, Terlesky started releasing more experimental records as Brother JT, and they, too, have been stellar. JT keeps his winning streak alive with the new Tornado Juice (Thrill Jockey), produced by Ray Ketchem (Luna, Okkervil River), who also manned the boards for 1996 Original Sins classic Bethlehem. The good Brother will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week, tornado juice not included.

JT: I typed “Little Girl Blue Nina Simone” into the search box on my computer, as I wanted to hear the great singer’s studio rendition of the Rogers And Hart standard. Because, well, I needed a good cry. Every so often, a fella’s gotta let out a good cry or he starts browsing for assault weapons, you know? And “Little Girl Blue,” with its tinkling “Good King Wenceslas” counterpoint combined with Simone’s thick-syrup voice running over the bittersweet hotcake of the song (“Sit there and count your fingers/What else can you do/Old girl you’re through”), does it for me every time. Something in the gravity she lends to the lyrics deepens its meaning till this listener feels like she’s singing about real, existential Hopelessness—a life and death matter—rather than garden-variety loneliness. Her storied, troubled life suggests it’s a subject she knew well.

What I came upon first, though, was a live rendition from Simone’s appearance at the 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival. I’d never heard it, so I thought, “Why not?” and clicked play. It is the first song of the set, so there’s an introduction, and then she strides onto the stage and stands before the piano gazing at the crowd. I don’t think I can rightly describe this gaze, which goes on for an awkwardly long time. It’s like she’s staring them down but without any defensiveness or hostility. “Here I am,” her deadpan countenance seems to say. “This face has been spit on. This face has been beaten. This face is what you did to me, coarse inhabitants of this rocky planet. I am done with you. But I guess I’ll sing you some songs because it is my pleasure to do so.” And, after the first in a series of spacey monologues and battles with her swivel mount microphone, she does just that. But, given the peculiar state of mind she was in that night, Simone does not merely sing the songs as much as perform detailed autopsies, taking them apart, holding up a piece and squeezing some new meaning from them before putting them back in the wrong place, laughing maniacally at her freedom to do so.

A highlight is her lengthy medley of Janis Ian’s “Stars” and Morris Albert’s “Feelings.” The camera holds a tight close-up as she wanders through these otherwise tear-in-your-beer ballads leaving in her wake marble halls of rough beauty the listener can enter into and be cooled by the calm understanding of real sorrow. She matter-of-factly lays her Self bare with each line, rewriting the simple laments into quietly indignant protests against injustices personal and systemic. With genuine astonishment she stops “Feelings” mid chorus to hiss, “I do not believe the conditions that produced a situation that demanded a song like that!” And then goes on to inhabit the tune, shouting, pleading, whispering, nearly breaking down, living it into submission, giving it up, everything, in the most real sense.

Simone makes us feel her loss and “lostness” so directly that it can’t help but strike little hammers in your heart that play a tune called “I have hurt this way, too.” And there is true connection, the kind folks shrink from these days because it’s uncomfortable. I’ve watched that kind of spirit fade away slowly over the years. Maybe that’s why this stuff makes me cry.

From The Desk Of Brother JT: Psychedelicized Radio

For a good stretch during the late ’80s/early ’90s, the John Terlesky-fronted, garage-rocking Original Sins were poised to be one of indie rock’s next big things. Despite a string of excellent LPs, that never happened for the pride of Bethlehem, Pa., who disbanded in 1999. Prior to the breakup, Terlesky started releasing more experimental records as Brother JT, and they, too, have been stellar. JT keeps his winning streak alive with the new Tornado Juice (Thrill Jockey), produced by Ray Ketchem (Luna, Okkervil River), who also manned the boards for 1996 Original Sins classic Bethlehem. The good Brother will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week, tornado juice not included.

JT: I try to listen to a pretty wide range of music. With YouTube, Spotify, etc., there’s really no excuse not to, having most recorded sounds available to you in a matter of seconds. But after exploring what’s been going on in Norwegian sadcore and British nerd hop, I seem to keep returning to the late ’60’s/early ’70s for my, uh, weekend listening pleasure.

That’s where Psychedelicized Radio fades in. Available to stream from their website, Psychedelicized operates as a kind of lysergic wayback machine for those inclined toward that paisley-eyed era, providing a diverse soundtrack for whatever your excursion might be: a trip to the Other Side or just to the store for some juice. The playlist is varied, including some standards of the genre, but concentrating mostly on material culled from obscure psych compilations that only true believers would recognize. I’m consistently surprised at how often I hear something new to me, and I’ve been diving deep into this gopher hole for decades. As a nice atmospheric adhesive, songs are often linked by vintage ads that complement the immersive experience.

That said, sure it’s gets a little tired after a while. A lot of psychedelic music is kind of psilly to modern ears, and for every deeply felt Skip Spence or 13th Floor Elevators tune there’s something like “I’m Allergic To Flowers” by the Jefferson Handkerchief. And so I drift away for a while. But 30-plus years on, I still keep returning, partly out of sentiment and comfort, but also because there’s something coded into psych’s DNA that feels like home to me; a strange combination of idealism and otherness that both welcomes and isolates the listener.