“I have never held any truck with the notion that rock ‘n’ roll is an easy option for people, because it isn’t. Not if it is done correctly. Not if it is done for the right reasons…and the right reasons are to create the kind of music that comes from within, regardless of what the record companies or fad or fashion might dictate. And that is never easy. That is always hard graft and that is what I have always done and have always demanded.”— Mark E. Smith
“I’ve been thanked for giving bands a bad word. I told the Gang of Four, I went to their dressing room when they were down in Los Angeles on their first tour, I said, “Hi. I know you guys have been getting your asses kissed ever since you got to this country because you’re English. I figured you’d appreciate one person coming up and telling you what a bucket of shit you are.” And they said, “Yeah, we have been getting our asses kissed. Thanks, we needed that. We do appreciate that.” I don’t know. What was the question?”— Lester Bangs speaks the truth in his last interview, which was conducted by a very young Jim Derogatis, then the future and now the former pop music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.
Midnite Snaxxx will satisfy your craving for rock and roll made by women who remember that the Go-Go’s were once a scrappy punk band like them. These Oakland ladies have esteemed musical pedigrees, so it’s no surprise that on A Guy Like That (Total Punk), they serve up two tracks of old-school punk-pop played fast and mean. Sure, it’s a wee bit bubblegum, but who cares? With riffs this dirty, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were razorblades stashed in the candy jar. Besides, Midnite Snaxxx aren’t the type to go in for the frilly stuff—they’re way too basic for that. Guitar, bass, drums, and matching leather jackets are all they need to rock your world, but even girls this tough have gooey centers. Underneath all the crunchy power chords are songs that could’ve come straight out of the Brill Building. “Baby don’t you go, don’t you leave me alone,” they plead on b-side “Jackie” (androgynous name, a plus), while the title track has those sweet girl group vocals placed front and center. Revolutionary it’s not, but this kind of stuff always did sound great on a 7”, so buy A Guy Like That and slot it in your punk singles box where it belongs.
Cover songs. Some are good; most are terrible. At their best, cover songs have the potential illuminate previously unknown musical threads within a well-loved tune. At their worst, they’re nothing more than shameless copies both lacking fire and context. I doubt I need specify which is more common.
If you listen to enough garage comps, you’ll hear a number of cover songs crop up: various versions of I’m Not Your Stepping Stone and 7 and 7 Is, assorted Stones tracks, the odd Byrd tune or two. The originals are generally miles better, though it’s fun to hear pysched-out, amateurish teenage takes on songs you know by heart. Take this cover of the Left Banke’s I’ve Got Something On My Mind by Corpus Christi band the Buckle.
I like this cover of I’ve Got Something On My Mind because it’s both straightforward and unusual at the same time. The former in that it’s very by-the-numbers in most senses, the latter in that who the hell ever covered the Left Banke? Though now revered for their baroque pop pioneering, the Left Banke were far from superstars in their day. I’ve Got Something On My Mind was the b-side to a single that barely scraped the top 100 in 1967. Still, Buckle guitarist Sam Neely was taken enough with the tune to record it, and why shouldn’t he have been: it’s an excellent song, and the Buckle do fantastic things with it.
The Buckle’s version of I’ve Got Something On My Mind has none of the Left Banke’s sophistication, and that’s a good thing. While they were a great band, the Left Banke’s music was always so drenched in frippery that it sometimes overwhelmed the simple structure of their songs. The Buckle keep the structure, but dispense with the ornamentation to the music’s benefit. A slightly sped-up tempo and a hint of twang in the vocals impart novelty, while the replacement of the original’s hallmark harpsichord with an ordinary piano makes I’ve Got Something On My Mind sound more earthy, more like what it really is: an above-average Beatles-inspired pop nugget. Give it a spin. I promise, it’ll brighten up your day.
PS. While doing research for this piece, I found out that Sam Neely of the In Crowd, the Buckle, and other TX garage groups, passed away in 2008. Click over to Flower Bomb Songs to read Neely’s obituary and see a foxy photo of him taken in the mid-1960’s. Dear Sam, thanks for the music, dude. It is 1966 forever in rock and roll heaven. xo MT