“Yoo Doo Right” – Can

I’ve always dug this mellow, but disturbing extended 20-minute+ jam by Krautrock pioneers Can (edited down from 6 hours!).  From their great psychedelic jazz punk album from 1969, “Monster Movie,” comes “You Doo Right.”  The best way to listen to this is just to turn it on and do something else.  The song’s creepy vibe will eventually get to you.  “I was blind, now I can see!  You made a believer outta me!”

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“The Bed” – Lou Reed

OK, if you’re even nominally depressed or down emotionally, please do not listen to this or watch this clip.  “The Bed” is from Lou Reed’s legendary downer of an album from 1973, “Berlin.”  “Berlin” was recorded after Reed achieved commercial success with “Walk on the Walk Side”  and almost 40 years later, is still considered one of the most perverse commercial moves in a major artist’s career. “Berlin” was produced by Bob Ezrin, the producing genius behind Alice Cooper’s brilliant early albums/singles and later, Pink Floyd’s downer masterpiece from 1979 “The Wall.”  “Berlin” is a tale of the downward spiral relationship between two meth junkies (Jim and Caroline), one of whom (Caroline) also seems to be mentally ill.  If anything, “Berlin” makes “The Wall” sound upbeat in its despairing view of humanity and the depths people can sink in their own self-destruction.  “Berlin” was dismissed as a perverse joke by some critics at the time, a maudlin wallowing in misery by others.  There was talk over the years of mounting a stage production of “Berlin,”, but poor sales and negative reviews of the album halted these ideas.

However, despite the bad state Reed was in when he recorded this album, the songwriting and production of “Berlin” are quite brilliant, and almost 40 years later, the album really holds up.  Reed (over 25 years sober) finally achieved his dream of performing the album in its entirety with a 30-piece orchestra and choir in 2007, which was brilliantly captured by Oscar-nominated director Julian Schnabel in the 2008 film “Lou Reed’s Berlin,” well worth checking out if you’re a fan of Reed, Schnabel, or Ezrin.

“The Love You Save (May Be Your Own)” – Joe Tex

Not to be confused with the Jackson 5 hit of the same name, this is a wonderful R&B ballad by Joe Tex from 1966 that was resurrected by the Quentin Tarantino half of 2007’s “Grindhouse” (“Death Proof”).   While “Death Proof” was not the strongest Tarantino film (though it does have its charms), the soundtrack (as always for a Tarantino film) is pretty awesome.

“Early Morning Wake Up Call” – The Hives

Sweden’s garage punk kings, The Hives, superbly cover the Australian new wave classic by Flash and the Pan.  This cover is sooooo 1981, but in the best and coolest way.   The wall of noise comprising heavy guitars and synthesizers is beyond awesome.  If the Hives made a music video for this shot on grainy 16mm, it would be damn near perfect.  From the Hives 2010 EP “Tarred and Feathered.”

“Six Days on the Road” – Taj Mahal

Mahal’s rockin’ cover of Dave Dudley’s classic trucker anthem “Six Days on the Road” has been a frequent play on Sirius XM’s Little Steven’s Underground Garage for the past couple of months.  I’m not quite sure why, since this cover is over 40 years old and don’t think it’s appeared in any film, TV show, or commercial recently, but who am I to question the great taste of the programmers at the world’s best radio station?  Seriously, wouldn’t you rather hear this awesome track in heavy rotation on classic rock radio stations instead of, well, pretty much the entire oeuvre of Styx or Supertramp?  From Mahal’s 1968 album “Giant Step.”

“Nobody But You Babe” – Clarence Reid

Most people these days know Clarence Reid by his XXX-rated alter ego Blowfly.  If you don’t know Blowfly, you should really check out the superb documentary “The Weird World of Blowfly” (available on Netflix instant).  While Blowfly’s XXX-rated parodies of popular songs  (“S–tting Off the Dock of the Bay”) make me laugh, it’s sad that more people these days don’t know what a solid R&B singer Reid was back in the day (and still is for that matter!).  In my opinion, he was the equal of Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding.  “Nobody But You Babe” is from Reid’s terrific 1969 Atco label album “Dancin’ With Nobody But You Babe.”  Reid also wrote Betty Wright’s hit “Clean Up Woman” as well as some KC and the Sunshine Band’s early hits.  Reid is also the father of WNBA player Tracy Reid.   Definitely an artist worthy of further investigation.

“Last Days Here” (2012) dir. Don Argott & Demian Fenton

One of the most disturbing, poignant, and oddly inspiring films I’ve seen this year is the documentary “Last Days Here.”  It’s about Bobby Liebling, the lead singer of 1970s doom metal pioneers Pentagram, who were considered the missing link between Led Zeppelin and the Sex Pistols back in the day.  They came close to the brass ring a couple of times, but never made it, despite having a huge cult following over the last 30-40 years.  The documentary opens showing Bobby at the absolute bottom of drug addiction (heroin, crack, and meth), living in his parent’s basement.  He’s in his 50s, but looks like he’s in his 80s.  The tale of how he pulls himself up from the bottom (with the help of a new manager and superfan named Sean Pelletier) is nothing short of amazing.  Mainly because most people in Bobby’s condition never pull themselves out.  If you’ve ever known someone like Bobby and seen what typically happens with someone in his shape, Bobby’s transformation is miraculous. The denouement is absolutely astonishing and if it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, you’re not human.  While a part of you may cynically surmise “Yeah … let’s see where Bobby is a few years from now,” one could easily say the same thing about me, you, or anyone you know.  Seriously, at my age, I’ve seen enough curveballs thrown my way (and towards others I know) that you never know where real life will lead you, even if you do all the right things.  And if anyone deserves a happy ending, it’s Bobby.    Bobby, wherever you are, best of luck to you and your family!

It’s available on Netflix streaming, so what are you waiting for?

“Thief” (1981) dir. Michael Mann

Michael Mann’s 1981 heist thriller “Thief” is not only one of the best crime movies of all time, it’s also one of the most influential.  Watching it nowadays, you can see where Mann tried out a lot of things that would later become de rigeur on “Miami Vice” (which Mann produced), but it’s not quite as flashy.  “Thief” is unapologetically blue collar.  The movie has many stunning and intense scenes (including some heavy graphic violence towards the end).  However, for me, this nearly 10-minute dialogue sequence between James Caan and Tuesday Weld is the best scene in the movie.  Here’s some setup:  Caan’s character has spent most of his adult life in prison.  Since he’s gotten out, he’s become an extremely successful safecracker and thief (with a few successful legitimate businesses that act as fronts for his illegal activity).  He has a lot of money and material possessions, but he also wants the kind of life “regular” people have, meaning marriage and a family.   He senses something in Tuesday Weld’s character that he feels is on his wavelength.  You see, Weld’s character too has a past, a shady one she’s trying to forget, even if it now means doing something mundane.  Caan’s character, in his clumsy, but direct way, is trying to kickstart his future and take a chance with someone he feels will understand and take the same emotional risk he is.  He guesses correctly.

“I Can’t Control Myself” – The Troggs

Is this garage punk?  Is this bubblegum?  Is it some hybrid?  Or something weirder or more sinister?  Seriously, when the beat hits this hard, the guitars drive home the clunky beats even further, and the vocalist contemptuously sneers the leering lyrics, does it really matter?  What else would you expect from the creators of “Wild Thing”?  Any way you slice it, this is some seriously cool s–t!!