Posts Tagged ‘Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers’

A Random Six-Pack

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

There are currently 79,000-plus tracks in the RealPlayer, most of them music. (I have about thirty familiar lines from movies in the stacks and some bits of interviews, too.) And today, we’re going to take a six-stop random tour through the stacks. We’ll sort the tracks by length; the shortest is 1.4 seconds of broadcaster Al Shaver exulting over a goal by the long-departed Minnesota North Stars – “He shoots, he scores!” – and the longest is the full album with bonus tracks of Bruce Springsteen’s 2006 release, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, clocking in at an hour and eighteen minutes.

We’re going to put the cursor in the middle of the stack and click six times and see what we get.

We land first on a track by Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers: “Memphis Queen” from the group’s 1989 album Rock & Real. At All Music, William Ruhlman notes, “Grushecky’s songs of tough urban life are made all the more compelling by his rough voice and the aggressive playing of his band.” The track in question, “Memphis Queen,” tells the tale of a Pittsburgh boy headed to New Orleans on the titular riverboat, stopping in St. Louis to search for the “brown-eyed handsome man” and meeting a girl named Little Marie, whose daddy is “down in the penitentiary.” I found the album at a blog somewhere when I was going through a Grushecky phase a few years ago. It’s a good way to start.

We jump from 1989 back to 1972 and a track from Mylon Lefevre. “He’s Not Just A Soldier” comes from Lefevre’s Over The Influence album. Originally recorded in 1961 by Little Richard, who wrote the song with William Pitt, the song reads on Lefevre’s album as an artifact from the Vietnam era, declaring that a young man in military service “is not just a soldier in a brown uniform, he’s one of God’s sons.” And there’s a surprise along the way, as Lefevre is joined on vocals by Little Richard himself. There’s also a great saxophone solo, but I don’t know by whom. (I saw a note on Wikipedia that said the album was a live performance, but I doubt that’s the case.)

Next up is a cover of a piece of movie music: “Lolita Ya-Ya” by the Ventures. The tune originated in Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film adaptation of the Vladimir Nabokov novel Lolita. Penned by Nelson Riddle, the song is source music from a radio the first time that the movie’s protagonist, Humbert Humbert, sees the title character who will become his obsession. Sue Lyon, the actress who played Lolita, provided the vocals for the film version of the tune. The Ventures’ cover of the tune was released as a single, but got only to No. 61 on the Billboard Hot 100.

From there, we head to 1968 and Al Wilson’s first album, Searching For The Dolphins, recorded for Johnny Rivers’ Soul City Label. “I Stand Accused” was the fourth single from the album aimed at the Hot 100; the most successful of the four was “The Snake,” which went to No. 27. “I Stand Accused,” a good soul workout, bubbled under at No. 106. As usual with Rivers’ productions, the backing musicians were spectacular: Hal Blaine, Jim Gordon, Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborne, Jim Horn and James Burton. (A 2008 reissue of the album provided as bonus tracks eleven singles and B-sides recorded around the same time for the Soul City, Bell and Carousel labels.)

Lou Christie’s fame (and his appeal), as I see it, rests on five singles: “The Gypsy Cried” (1963), “Two Faces Have I” (1963), “Lightning Strikes” (1965), “Rhapsody In The Rain” (1966), and “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” (1970). He shows up here today with “Wood Child,” a track from his 1971 album Paint America Love, released under his (almost) real name, Lou Christie Sacco. (He was born Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco, according to discogs.com.) I’m not sure what the song is about, except that its lyrics are evocative and include the recurring choruses, “You’ve got to save the wood child” and “Take a ticket and get on this boat.”

(A 2015 appreciation of the album by Bob Stanley for The Guardian said: “Yet another side of Christie emerged in 1971 when he cut his masterpiece, Paint America Love, a Polish/Italian/American take on What’s Going On. Orchestrated state-of-the-nation pieces (‘Look Out the Window,’ the extraordinary ‘Wood Child’) compete with majestic instrumentals (‘Campus Rest’) and childhood reminiscences (‘Chuckie Wagon,’ the Sesame Street-soundtracking ‘Paper Song’) in a gently lysergic whole. Online reviews compare it to Richard Ford and John Steinbeck: fans of Jimmy Webb are urged to seek it out.”)

I’m not sure where I got the album, probably a long-lost blog, but I suppose I should take Stanley’s advice and listen to it more closely.

And our six-pack this morning ends with “Long Line” from Peter Wolf, one-time member of the J. Geils Band. The title track from his 1996 album, the tune shifts from straight-ahead tasteful rock to a spoken interlude and back. It sounds a lot more like 1972 than 1996, with some nifty piano fills, which makes it a nice way to end our trek.

Of Stem Caps & Sensors

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

When I got into our Nissan the other day, the little light on the dashboard that looks like a flat tire was on: The air in one or more of the tires was at an unsatisfactory level.

I sighed and nodded. It was one of the first truly cold days of the autumn, and the resultant contraction of the air had lowered the air pressure in the tires. It happens every fall (and the converse, the expansion of air to the point where the tires are over-filled, happens every spring).

So I interrupted my errand with a stop at a service station and got the problem halfway fixed. Two of the caps on the tire valve stems did not want to come off. Annoyed, I completed my errands with the tire light still glowing on the dashboard, and once home, I got a pair of pliers and began to work on the balky stem caps. The first one, a plastic one, came off immediately. The second, a metal one, did not, despite efforts that left it scratched and scarred.

Pensive, I headed down to the nearby convenience store and topped off the tire from which I’d taken the plastic cap and then took a short drive to see if the tire light stayed on, indicating that the currently inaccessible tire also needed air. After a half-mile or so, the light went out. The air in the tires was fine. But we were going to have to get the car into our local tire place to get that metal cap removed.

The shiny metal cap – the one that was badly stuck and now scarred – was new. Sometime last summer, I got tired of replacing the plastic caps on the tire stems. It seemed that every couple months, one of them broke or had its threads damaged. So I headed down to the auto parts shop on Lincoln Avenue, right next door to the building that houses WJON and its sibling radio stations, and bought a set of metal caps for the Versa’s valve stems. As it happened, I installed only two of them, leaving the two remaining plastic caps in place.

Using the metal caps was not a good idea, but I didn’t know that then. That’s something I learned rapidly Monday morning, when I got to the tire shop just up the service road along Highway 10. I told the fellow behind the counter why I was there. “It’s probably mis-threaded, and I’ll need a new tire stem,” I said.

He nodded and said, “Well, yes, but . . .”

And I knew something was wrong.

“It’s not just a stem,” he went on. “It’s also the sensor for the tire pressure. We’ll try to get the cap off the stem, but what’s often happened is that the metal cap bonds to the metal of the sensor stem, and the cap can’t be removed without ruining the sensor.”

If his mechanic could remove the cap without other damage, he said, we’d be talking a minimal charge for labor. But if I needed a new sensor, I’d be looking at something north of a hundred bucks. I scratched my head, then nodded. “It’s gotta be done,” I said. “Go ahead.”

And about an hour later, I left the tire shop with a lighter bank account and a new pressure sensor in my right rear tire. As I’d settled the bill at the register, I’d had a thought. “I did have a metal cap on one of the other tires,” I said.

The fellow nodded. “We replaced that one, too,” he said.

And I headed home with my mind running in two tracks. First, we were lucky: I could have used all of the metal caps and all of them could have bonded with the stems, costing us more than $400. Second, is there any way I could have known better?

Well, yeah, there is, but only if I were an avid auto buff or had thought to do some research. The post about metal stem caps that I found at a forum for owners of the Chrysler Crossfire is typical:

The metal (either steel, stainless, or aluminum) will cause a chemical bond with the valve stem over time. Anytime you put dissimilar metals together you can expect a long term reaction, be it chemically “welded” or the opposite, corrosion. These negative effects are magnified by the fact that our valve stems are actually part of an electric sensor…….think electroplating, electrogalvanizing, etc.

I thought for a second that maybe the fellow at the car parts store might have warned me, but he likely thought I knew what I was doing. I didn’t, of course, and it cost us. The only positive here is that it wasn’t as expensive a mistake as it could have been.

Well, there is one other minor positive. Telling the tale got me digging though my music for something with “wheel” in the title, and I came across a tune by Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers. I’ve liked Grushecky’s work – sometimes credited to his band, the Houserockers (originally the Iron City Houserockers), and sometimes just to him – for years, but I don’t think it’s ever shown up here.

So here’s “Broken Wheel” from their 2009 album, East Carson Street. As sometimes happens, Grushecky and the Houserockers get a little help on guitar from a pal named Bruce Springsteen.