Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Neptune's Car

by Doug Gillard

In 1980, Doug Morgan was about to begin a short run as touring bassist for Human Switchboard, and had just released a collaborative 7" with Charlotte Pressler under the name Pressler-Morgan ( "You're Gonna Watch Me"/"Hand Piece" - Hearthan Records, 1979). He formed Neptune's Car with Pere Ubu/Home and Garden drummer Scott Krauss, guitarist John Freskos, and bassist Brian Cox, and went into Cleveland's After Dark studios to churn out the jarring avant-pop found on this single.

This 45 epitomizes the best of Northeast Ohio's short-lived "post-punk underground" sound. It comes from a time when men weren't afraid to use chorus pedals - not the smooth Roland JC sound of the mid-80's, but the off-phase, piercing, early chorus pedal sound. The record also benefits from the co-production of The Mirrors' Jim Jones, then just forming the great band Easter Monkeys. Both of these tracks were thankfully included on the Pere Ubu box set Datapanik in the Year Zero, on the included CD Terminal Drive- Ubu-related Rarities. (Geffen/Cooking Vinyl, 1996)

"Baking Bread," with its semi-ska drunken sailor intro led by a repeated Krauss fill, quickly gets into the meat of its angular modern garage pop. Morgan's slightly Verlainian vocals overlay chiming guitars not given to typical strumming or chord voicings. Okay, it's a little like Television, but takes that approach a step further; a little more obtuse.

"Lucky Charms" is almost as strong as the A-side. Propelled by Krauss's forward leaning straight-4 beat, this faster, danceable rocker exhibits the same unexpected chord changes, along with some nice, quirky guitar improvisations along the way, not too far removed from the likes of what Pylon was doing in Athens at the same time. Krauss's beat style here is consistent with the flavor he demonstrated in Pere Ubu and would use in the future with Home and Garden. The guitar parts Morgan devises to fill holes between vocal lines are ever-interesting, never typical.

Neptune's Car changed its lineup and carried on another few years, with Gary Lupico (ex-Kneecappers, pre-Dr. Bloodmoney & California Speedbag, and inventor of the name "Dead Kennedys") coming in on guitar, and Jeff Benik (pre-Ca. Speedbag, The New Ceasars, more) replacing Krauss.

Morgan moved to New York, formed/quit some bands, moved back to Cleveland, and in the 90's formed the New Caesars. Koolie--in fact, Morgan's own label--compiled and released the EP Peter Laughner in 1982.

I saw a later version of Neptune's Car in '82 at an outdoor college radio festival when I was 16, not knowing I would play in some capacity with its members in a few separate outfits years later. (Gary Lupico, Brian Cox, Doug Morgan, Jeff Benik)

In 1996, Doug Morgan was living back in Cleveland and asked me to record 2 songs with him in what would come to be called the New Caesars. "Flame" and "Lou" were 2 very different songs, but have Morgan's melodicism and gift for well thought-out lyrics. Practicing the songs with Doug and the band was fun, and I stayed late those couple nights at a studio in the Flats adding backup vocals and extra guitar. One night after recording I found my car window smashed by a thief who tried to get the crappy radio/cassette player inside. It was worth it, of course, because the songs came out great! You can hear the New Caesars stuff HERE.

(Dedicated to the memory of Gary Lupico and Jim Jones. Thanks to Mike DeCapite and Brian Cox)


"Baking Bread" mp3
by Neptune's Car, 1980.
Koolie 240
out of print

"Lucky Charms" mp3
by Neptune's Car, 1980.
Koolie 240
out of print

top photograph © Ted Barron
Doug Morgan, Grand Street, Brooklyn, circa 1990.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

World Boogie Is Coming

On the inner groove of Beale Street Saturday Night, amongst the various engravings that exist on old LPs, are four words in quotations: "WORLD BOOGIE IS COMING." This was a saying of Jim Dickinson's, who died on Saturday. His contribution to American music puts him in the company of men like his mentor Sam Phillips, about whom he said: "...God created all men equal. I think God gave Sam just a little extra." The same could be said about him.

I never met Dickinson, and always just took it for granted that someday I would. I saw him play a few times in intimate surroundings here in New York: first at the Lakeside Lounge, accompanied by Eric Ambel (who wrote a fine tribute to Dickinson HERE) and again at Joe's Pub a few years later. Sometime in the late 90s, I was in Memphis, and went to meet writer Robert Gordon for lunch at a midtown deli. As we sat there eating our sandwiches, Robert looked up and out the window. "Is that Dickinson?" he said. He paused for a moment, as we watched him amble across the street and past us. "He must be coming from the bank...Dickinson takes care of a lot of things, but himself is not one of them."

Apparently, there was a lot of truth to that statement. He loved the Bar-B-Q--maybe a little too much-- and earlier this year Dickinson underwent heart surgery, and never made a full recovery.

In Gordon's book It Came From Memphis, Dickinson recalls his early education in suburban Memphis:

"Everybody learned it from the yardman." says Dickinson. "Alex Tiel taught me everything he thought was important to teach a nine-year-old white boy. How to shoot craps, how to throw a knife underhanded--the important lessons in life. When it came to something he didn't know, he brought in an expert. He wasn't a musician, but he sang as he worked, unaccompanied, and when he realized I was interested in music, he brought in a man who taught me this technique that I learned to play from."

And so Dickinson's piano lessons began.

James Luther Dickinson went on to play in numerous bands in Memphis. In 1969, when the Rolling Stones were recording in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, he went down to hang out, and ended up playing piano on "Wild Horses" --apparently Stu couldn't play minor chords on the piano--he was also present and (probably) helped with the arrangement of their version of Mississippi Fred McDowell's "You Got To Move" which was also recorded that day. In the early seventies, with a group of fellow Memphians--The Dixie Flyers-- he went to Miami, as the backing band for countless Atlantic Record sessions; played on and produced Ry Cooder's first records, and later a handful of soundtracks (including Paris, Texas); recorded his own record, the classic Dixie Fried in 1972, following it up late in life with a string of great solo LPs. As a producer, he worked with Alex Chilton as a solo artist, and helped craft the collection of songs known as Big Star's Third. Later, he produced The Replacements, Toots Hibbert, Green on Red, Chuck Prophet, Amy LaVere, and many others including his sons, The North Mississippi All-Stars. In 1997, he played keyboards on Bob Dylan's Time Out of Mind, and when Dylan received a Grammy for the record, he thanked his "Brother," Jim Dickinson. His accomplishments are far and wide, and it's doubtful there will ever be anyone quite like him again. The world is a different place, and a better place for him having been a part of it.

Flags in Fluville are flying at half-mast.


Beale Street Saturday Night, 1978.
out of print


liner notes by Stanley Booth

Both sides of this LP are presented in their entirety,
they are long continuous tracks.

Side One: mp3
Side Two: mp3


Here are some of Dickinson's great recordings, as a frontman, multi-instrumentalist sideman, producer, arranger, and recording artist. This is really just the tip of the iceberg.

"You'll Do It All The Time" mp3
by Jim Dickinson And The New Beale Street Sheiks, 1964.
available on It Came from Memphis, Vol. 2

"Cadillac Man" mp3
by the Jesters, 1966.
available on Sun Records 50th Anniversary Collection

"Back For More" mp3
by Lawson & Four More, 1966.
available on It Came from Memphis, Vol. 2

"Uptight Tonight" mp3
by Flash And The Memphis Casuals, 1966.
available on It Came from Memphis

"Where Is The D.A.R. When You Really Need Him" mp3
by Jerry Jeff Walker, 1970.
with the Dixie Flyers
available on Bein' Free

"Your Own Backyard" mp3
by Dion, 1970
with the Dixie Flyers
available on King of the New York Streets

"Have You Seen My Baby?" mp3
by the Flamin Groovies, 1971.
available on Teenage Head

"Boomer's Story" mp3
by Ry Cooder, 1972.
available on Boomer's Story

"Casey Jones (On The Road Again)" mp3
by James Luther Dickinson, 1972.
available on Dixie Fried

"Kangaroo" mp3
by Big Star, 1975.
available on Third/Sister Lovers

"Fight At The Table" mp3
by Chris Bell, 1975.
available on I Am the Cosmos

"Rock Hard" mp3
by Alex Chilton, 1979.
available on Like Flies on Sherbert

"Red Headed Woman" mp3
by Jimmy Dickinson & The Cramps, 1984.
available on Rockabilly Psychosis and the Garage Disease

"Tina, The Go-Go Queen" mp3
by Tav Falco's Panther Burns, 1985.
available on Sugar Ditch Revisited

"Tossin' N' Turnin'" mp3
by The Replacements, 1987.
available on Pleased to Meet Me

"Hard To Handle" mp3
by Toots Hibbert, 1987
available on Toots in Memphis

"Power To The People" mp3
by Mud Boy & The Neutrons, 1993.
available on They Walk Among Us

"Dirt Road Blues" mp3
by Bob Dylan, 1997.
available on Time Out of Mind

"JC's NYC Blues" mp3
by James Luther Dickinson, 2002.
available on Free Beer Tomorrow

"Somewhere Down The Road" mp3
by James Luther Dickinson, 2006.
available on Jungle Jim and the Voodoo Tiger

more on Jim Dickinson at The Hound Blog

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Elvis Museum

As the rest of the world celebrates the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, today we'll do as we always do here in Fluville on August 16th, and pay tribute to the passing of the King. Elvis Presley died 32 years ago today, and his legacy has been enshrined by the almighty Elvis Presley Enterprises, making his former home, Graceland, one of the biggest tourist attractions in the USA.

There are also some smaller fan based attractions like Graceland Too, in Holly Springs, Mississippi, pictured above and run by tireless fan, Paul McLeod, who has turned his home into a museum and shrine to the King-- covering nearly every square inch of his home with memorabilia; the more campy 24 Hour Church of Elvis, in Portland, Oregon; and a nameless place, sweetly remembered in today's musical selection: "Elvis Museum," by Brooklyn's Maynard and the Musties.

Joe Maynard recalls the inspiration for the song:

"When I was 12 or so and spent the summer at my Dad's house in Lebanon, Tennessee, about 20 miles east of Nashville, he got a country club membership so we could go swimming. The bike ride was about 3 or 4 miles past the edge of town where it just started to turn into farms. About a 1/2 mile from the gate to the country club was this Elvis museum. They had a regular farm house, but as the song says, to the side was an airstream trailor and a billboard of sorts over the top. Everyone in the South waves at each other, and after a couple trips we just decided to check it out. I think she charged us 50 cents a piece, or a dollar. I don't remember much of what was inside, to tell you the truth... I just made up what I thought was in there for the song (sorry if it spoils it for anyone!)"

Long live the King.


"Elvis Museum" mp3
by Maynard and the Musties, 2009.
available on So Many Funerals

Ryan Adams plays piano and lapsteel

top photo: Graceland Too, Holly Springs, Mississippi, 1997.
© Ted Barron